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Michael Gove promises to restore confidence in 'A' levels, increase the freedom of Academies and reduce the inspection burden on top-performing schools

In a speech that largely focused on maths, "the most influential language on earth", Michael Gove also promised today to end political interference in 'A' levels:

"I can announce today that we will make a radical change to the way in which A Levels are designed. My thinking has been influenced by the work of Sir Richard Sykes and his team who have been looking at the future of qualifications for us, and among his proposals, which will be published in due course, the case he makes for restoring rigour to A levels is compelling.  We must ensure that A levels are protected from devaluation at the hands of politicians. The institutions with the greatest interest in maintaining standards at A-level are those which receive A-level students - our universities. The individuals with the keenest interest in ensuring A levels require the depth of knowledge necessary to flourish at university are our teaching academics. So we will take control of the A level syllabus and question-setting process out of the hands of bureaucrats and instead empower universities, exam boards, learned societies and bodies like ACME with the task of ensuring these qualifications are rigorous."

He promises to make the 'A' level subject to international comparison:

"We will also ask Ofqual, the exams regulator, to report on how our exams compare with those in other countries so we can measure the questions our 11, 16 and 18 year olds sit against those sat by their contemporaries in India, China, Singapore, South Korea, Australia, New Zealand and Canada."

Today's announcement is part of a week's focus on the Conservatives' flagship education proposals. Yesterday Michael Gove announced that the best schools in England would no longer have to be inspected. He also said that local councils will lose their right to veto a school becoming an academy. Some localists will worry at this latest encroachment on local authority power in the name of 'education'. Two weeks ago it became clear that new schools will be able to over-ride planning objections from local government. ConHome's local government editor Harry Phibbs defended the change at the time:

"Technically this might be presented as anti localist. But in reality it is about devolving power down from the Town Hall to the people. The school will run its own affairs rather than being told what t do by the Council. Clusters of parents wanting to start their own school will be able to do so rather being scuppered by bureaucrats in County Hall in the next town."

According to the FT, Mr Gove also vowed to “restore” many freedoms granted to the first tranche of the Labour government's academies, such as the right to set their own curriculum.

Tim Montgomerie


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