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« David Walsh: Compulsory British History at GCSE | Main | Mike Christie: All secondary schools to become directly state-funded but independent trust schools »


Adrian Owens

Mark Fulford at 20.05 and a-tracey (welcome back to another voice of sanity) are correct from my perspective.

However, the good folks here yesterday gave the thumbs up to school students being forced to study history to GCSE level so I fear that we are losing the argument you both make so persuasively. I suspect that peoples' pro-history and anti-science views (prejudices?) will produce different responses to these two questions, but the central question should be whether politicians should prescribe what 15 and 16 year olds study in this much detail?

I thought we were in favour of allowing the sort of kid who truants from school to follow a more vocational path? But apparently no, now we want to force him or her to learn history and possibly science in a triple dose if this proposal is voted through. Major inconsistencies in our thinking over this policy area I feel.


In many comprehensives classes are taught in mixed ability, so trying to teach so many compulsory subjects will produce a detrimental affect to the children who choose to follow the academics preferred prescription of topics because the people at the bottom disrupt the class and the children at the top have a dumbed down education and too many drop out of science as soon as they can.

By pure coincidence to this weeks policy ideas, my son also took GCSE History which was Medicine through the ages and the American West, not very relevant to what he wants to do or Britain in the 21st Century but he ticked his compulsory humanities box.

I often wonder how many of the people who poo poo Media Studies actually know what it involves. We're always told that we are heading into the future and require skills for the industries that will thrive there, some of these skills will need to be pertinent to the service sector that is fuelling our economy. From what I've seen of the Media Studies course it gives a good grounding in how we are all manipulated by all areas of communication, whether it be blogs like this, posters, radio, tv, newspapers, magazines etc. It concentrates on four key concepts; Language, Institutions, Audience and Representation and having just read how much we all pay to these spin doctors in the Labour Party it isn't such a bad career choice, after all they've kept their audience happy for the past nine years.

Thomas Hobbes


"In many comprehensives classes are taught in mixed ability" - All classes are mixed ability, as a student who struggled at the bottom of a top maths set I can assure you of that. Science is usually taught in sets.

"the people at the bottom disrupt the class" - students of all levels of ability misbehave.

"but he ticked his compulsory humanities box" - There are no legal reasons why he has to take a humanities subject. You should speak to the chair of governors if you have been misled in this way.

The last medis studies exam I supervised involved designing and colouring in a poster.

Thomas Hobbes


the verification codes are very hard to read!

David Banks

oh whatever , education is so DULL

David Banks

oh whatever , education is so DULL


Media Studies graduates actually have fairly high starting salaries. I would be interested to know whether or not these salaries are in the public sector.

Thomas Hobbes


Media studies graduates have high rates of unemployment! Only 17% get a media job, 19% do routine clerical work and 10% do bar work.


Sorry Thomas Hobbes (9.33) but that is partly the idea of the verification codes. I'm sorry if they are causing you particular difficulties but it's becoming an essential way of protecting the site from spam.

Thomas Hobbes

Thanks Tim,

My old eyes are failing me.

Matt Wright

It seems to me that this is confusing two seperate issues. Yes we need to ensure subjects are rigorous so Science needs to be stretching not dumbed down, but one of the problems we have had in our country is rigidly demarcated professions. Many sciences and even arts are merging and we require people who can think across different fields. I always despeised the false spliut between arts and sciences and this has hampered the development of our nation. No I'm sorry I don't agree with this policy, it seems to miss a bigger aim we need for the country,



Some writers here have somehow given themselves the right to dictate what goes on in other people’s lives. They have formed the idea that children need protecting from themselves and their parents. The logic behind their argument seems to be that children are a resource partly owned by the state; whose output has to be directly useful and productive to the state. They are, of course, wrong.

Each parent’s responsibility is to do the absolute best they can for their children. Within normal parameters, nobody has the right or the skill to say that they know better than a parent what’s good for a child; to assume a parent’s responsibility

Absolutely. Conservatives normally abhor the state coming in and undermining parental authority, but it seems that here we've found a blindspot.


Thomas, I realise that I am talking from the perspective of seeing only my children and their friends education. The OCR Media Studies two examinations were much more stringent than that and were written papers, any design work on websites, magazines and posters were done as one of four projects over the two years of study.

As a child I was moved up a set into the GCE stream in Year 9, I was happier getting 100% all the time in the CSE stream!

I accept your point about bright children misbehaving too, possibly because they're not stretched and they find the subject dull and boring and have no interest in it. I was forced to take Physics, I hated it, I wanted to take typing but the GCE stream weren't allowed to, two years of night school in typing, audio typing and shorthand later enabled me to get on in my career.

As for history, a couple of years after starting at the school it specialised as a humanities school so that's perhaps why he was told to choose one, we didn't mind but he would have preferred to take IT or Design Technology.

Mike Christie

Wow! So we seem to be a party in favour of personal responsibility, but also in favour of mandating 6 of the GCSEs taken by children in British schools (English, Maths, History and 3 sciences) regardless of ability or interest.

All we need now is someone to suggest that in the modern world IT is an essential skill and everyone should study it to GCSE, and someone else to suggest that in a global marketplace foreign languages are essential then children (and their parents) won't actually have any choice about what subjects they study.


"Media studies graduates have high rates of unemployment! Only 17% get a media job, 19% do routine clerical work and 10% do bar work."

Ah ha, I thought something was amiss. Thank you for informing me of that. I just remember Boris Johnson (in the Spectator I think) sticking up for media studies degrees on the basis of high starting salaries. No mention of employment rates...


"Wow! So we seem to be a party in favour of personal responsibility, but also in favour of mandating 6 of the GCSEs taken by children in British schools (English, Maths, History and 3 sciences) regardless of ability or interest."

I can only assume this is because many readers of the site are statist conservatives rather than libertarian conservatives.

I myself used to be in favour of compulsory history and forcing schools to use traditional teaching methods, traditional classroom arrangements, school uniforms, prize days and other traditional educational methods and structures.

In short I wanted my view of how schools should be run enforced across the country regardless of parental wishes. I still believe that these methods would be the most effective, although I now accept that schools and parents should have a say over what methods they choose to use. After all, if the methods I favour are the best then they ought to be adopted throughout the education as schools that use failing trendy methods find themselves being shunned like a plague victim.


Re: what happens to media studies graduates after university. Where do you look at figures like this?

When you think about it if no private schools do Media Studies and no grammar schools do Media Studies (where I think I read just over 50% of children get the A* & A grades) then the unconnected state school pupils that go on to study this perhaps don't go on to their dream jobs in the media but they would be well placed to look for jobs in business in Sales, Marketing, PR, updating websites, organising promotions and presentations - there's room for all of us with different specialities. Too many science graduates and many of those would be working in pubs (goodness how awful for them).

Chris Palmer

The costs section of this policy brought a smile to my face.

Pity I was too late to vote.

John Peters

3 more compulsory subjects? Why not go the whole hog and do what the French used to do? Everyone in the same year in every school can study the same subjects at the same time to the same timetable as dictated by central government.
I can't believe that these two proposals (the compulsory subjects ones) have been passed.

Helen Gourlay

I have taught Physics in state schools for 17 years.
The introduction of Double Award science - by a previous conservative government - led to a steeper drop in the number of students taking A Level Physics than we have seen at any other time.
It could be therefore be argued that going back to the pre-1990 system, where students could choose which of the sciences they took up at GCSE, would be a good idea.
I must take issue with your comment about Biology. If you look at the statistics (e.g. ALIS), Biology A Level is the one that students find hardest to pass, when you look at the progress they make from GCSE.

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Today must borrow nothing of tomorrow.

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I've heard concerns being expressed that the reason why kids aren't taking science subjects is that they are "hard" compared to so called "fluffy" subjects such as history or general studies.

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If we go down this route Britain will become the nation of unemployed biologists."For a start every schoolkid knows biology is the easiest science.

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