Chiswick School Head Slams Gove Education Reforms

Tony Ryan says Minister's proposed exam system 'belongs in the past'

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The head of Chiswick School has criticised proposed secondary education reforms and said Education Minister Michael Gove appears to be “fixated on an exam system that belongs in the past."

Mr. Tony Ryan said he was concerned at the pace of change and the lack of professional consultation about the imminent and proposed changes which include the end of coursework and modular exams, the EBacc, and a new “slimmed-down” National Curriculum.

And he said that a return to the O-level style exam proposed by the Minister was “not a gold standard to which I would aspire." His remarks were made in an article on the school website outlining the school's response on the proposed reforms.

He also criticised the sidelining of PE and the arts and said other subjects had been “sacrificed at the altar of the EBacc” and vocational education appeared to have “ little value” in the new structure.

"The real investment ought to be in the art of improving teaching and addressing how schools can address the cultural deficit that limits so many of our young people. That is the factor that is the hardest to tackle and that we are avoiding by concentrating on the minutiae of the curriculum."

He added that what was needed was a generation competent in the basics, but excited by new possibilities and skills, and “it is those in the middle of the ability range and below that we need to skill and motivate, not drill into boredom and disengagement.”

The Chiswick-born headteacher said he was not completely opposed to any change in the system.

"Change can be good and is certainly not something that we are afraid of at Chiswick; it is the pace of change and the lack of professional consultation that causes me and the majority of headteacher colleagues nationally, some concern.

"The emphasis in raising standards should not be on what is taught as much as how it is taught. We should not be involving schools in expenditure on new resources for a new curriculum when the investment ought to be in improving the art of teaching and on how schools can address the cultural deficit that limits so many of our young people.

"As a profession we have all accepted the absolute necessity of accountability in raising standards but not enough thought and research is going into how we hold teachers accountable, because that has as much impact on what is taught as the curriculum."

Chiswick School had improved dramatically in recent years and there were many reasons for this, some noticeable ones included improving the quality of teaching and learning by employing the best teachers;a flexible curriculum for students of all abilities; giving students a voice through an active Student Council, and detailed plans on improving the environment to make it fit for 21st century education, he said.

The full text of the response can be read here:



January 10, 2013