Monday, 4 November 2013

Soft Options and Hard Choices

It will come as no surprise to anyone who has ever read this blog that last weekend's article in The Times outlining the latest plans to ensure rigour in our education system by removing so-called 'soft options' from the Curriculum somewhat got my goat. The subjects of Mr Gove's disapproval this time are Drama, PE, Media Studies, and Law. Subjects which the Secretary of State for Education deems unsuitable to be taken as GCSEs.

Well blow me down with a right-wing manifesto!

If there was ever further proof needed that Gove's 'reforms' were anything other than ideological, then here it is. Take a moment to read the list of 'soft' subjects again; Drama (about which much more later) PE, Media Studies and Law.

As someone who has worked in theatre and teaching for the best part of twenty five years, you won't be surprised that I will extol the myriad virtues of drama and performance (including music and dance) for the betterment of society until I am blue in the face. My previous post, entitled Uncomfortably Numb, sets out my stall about the absolute need for drama in education. Ironically, I don't teach GCSE Drama; we don't offer it, opting instead for the more vocational BTEC routes. And how Mr Gove hates those! But I will defend the right of all children to be able to study Drama as a GCSE.

I will also defend their right to study PE as a GCSE. If Mr Gove had his way, all the school playing fields would be sold off to private developers and school kids would be left to make do with a Wii-fit. Although he and all his Westminster friends are quick to bask in the reflected light of our Olympians and Paralympians and their success at London 2012, they do not feel the need to offer a qualification (or significant funding) to anyone who might just bring home the gold medals in 2016 or 2020.

Mr Gove is a former journalist - well, he worked for Rupert Murdoch which is close - but he doesn't want young people to learn about bias or representation, censorship or ethics. He doesn't want just any young council estate tearaway to have the opportunities offered to him. No articulate broadcasters who haven't been to Oxbridge. Anyway, just think of the savings his friends who run Academies and Free schools could make if they sold off the Mac computers, editing suite, cameras, tripods and other equipment. It wouldn't be long before all those expensive instruments and recording equipment were on EBay either. Oh, and the lighting rig; that drama studio will make a perfect exam hall.

The Law is the last refuge of the scoundrel, someone once said. It will also remain almost exclusively the preserve of the rich elite if Mr Gove has his plans approved. I am assured that, traditionally, no-one entering the legal profession would have a GCSE in Law. Instead they would probably have studied The Classics or Philosophy, Politics and Economics at University, and then specialised in Law. It is this tradition that I take issue with; why shouldn't a working class kid from Bradford, Birmingham, Barking or Barry Island have as much opportunity to study law as those from more affluent areas?

Much more has been written about the issue of 'soft options' - some fine examples can be found HERE

As parents and educators we face some very hard choices. Perhaps the most pressing is whether we are prepared to stand up to Gove's bullying tactics and fight for an education system free from political influence and one that is truly in the best interests of all children?