Sedgefield head teacher rounds on education secretary after "cheating" accusations (From Darlington and Stockton Times)
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Sedgefield head teacher rounds on education secretary after "cheating" accusations
A NORTH-East head teacher has launched a fierce attack on the Education Secretary after he accused schools of “cheating” by encouraging pupils to resit exams.
David Davies, the head at Sedgefield Community College, said Michael Gove was wrong to allege the practice was an attempt to fiddle school league tables.
Worse, Mr Gove’s bid to stamp out early exams – by excluding the results in resits from league tables – would damage some pupils and prevent them reaching their potential.
In fact, Sedgefield Community College is ploughing ahead with plans for some pupils to sit GCSE maths and English next month – even though its ranking might suffer as a result.
Mr Davies said: “What Mr Gove said was a personal attack on head teachers, by suggesting we are cheating. I was seething when I heard it.
“But my primary concern is the students and helping them achieve the best they can before they walk out the door and move on to the next phase in their lives.
“So what upsets me more would be penalising children who have the chance to push on, if they have the potential to achieve a higher grade.
“Schools encourage pupils to sit exams early to motivate them to understand what they can achieve. If they get a grade C, they can resit the exam and ten get a B or an A.”
Other schools are now hurriedly scrapping planned November exams, but Mr Davies said they would go ahead at Sedgefield Community College for around 70 pupils.
Its ranking in league tables will drop if pupils achieve below a C, but then manage a higher grade next summer – a score that will no longer count.
Mr Davies added: “It may penalise the school, but if we don’t do it we could be penalising the children.”
The controversy was raised at Parliament yesterday, when Sedgefield MP Phil Wilson intervened to urge Mr Gove to make a full statement to the Commons.
He said: “Any improvement in a pupil’s progress through his or her hard work and excellent teaching will not be counted. Is that not the wrong way to deal with multiple exam entries?”
In reply, Commons Leader Andrew Lansley said an education minister would write to Mr Wilson, adding: “It is important to have clear and meaningful indicators of school performance.”
Mr Gove made his surprise announcement on the eve of last week’s Conservative conference, in an interview with a Sunday newspaper.
The Education Secretary cited concern at the rising number of pupils taking the same exam papers a year or more earlier than normal.
And he said: “The school is, in effect, gaming the system by not thinking what is in the best interests of the student, but using the student as a means of gathering points so the school itself can look better. That is, in a word, cheating.”
Mr Davies also criticised Mr Gove for forcing pupils to sit more exams in the summer, saying: “It will put students under enormous pressure for very little benefit.”
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