Michael Gove is receiving a drubbing this morning, accused of doing a "U-turn" on his proposal to replace GCSEs with the new, English Baccalaureate Certificates (EBCs). But I prefer to see the more modest proposals announced today as a sensible compromise rather than a humiliating climb down – and not just because I'm a Michael Gove loyalist. Sometimes in politics, it's necessary to beat a tactical retreat in order to win the war. That's what the Secretary of State has done today.
First, let's be clear about the reforms that are still going ahead.
The new knowledge-based National Curriculum that Gove unveiled earlier this week with a barn-storming speech at the Social Market Foundation is still on track to be introduced next year. Based on the Core Knowledge Sequence developed by the visionary American educationalist ED Hirsch, it aims to provide all schoolchildren with a treasure chest of essential knowledge by the time they leave school. Instead of learning to learn – the underlying principle of the current National Curriculum which is based on the mistaken idea that children can learn how to learn without having to commit any facts to their long term memories – children will actually learn something in classrooms. This is by far the most important of the Secretary of State's reforms and if he's had to shelve his plans for the EBCs in order to shore up support for it, that's a price worth paying. (To read more, click here.)