Spot The Difference: Part 2

April 20, 2014

About a year ago I wrote a blogpost entitled “Spot the Difference” comparing what Tristram Hunt was saying about the history curriculum before he became part of Labour’s education team and after. This quick post is the sequel.

Here are Tristram Hunt’s views on AS levels, interviewed by Total Politics in 2012:

With history, kids are over-examined and under-taught. Personally, I’d get rid of AS Levels – they’ve been a waste of time. You don’t need the relentless examination system; when kids leave at the age of 18, they’re ‘exam trauma victims’.

Here, from the TES website, is an account by William Stewart of what Tristram Hunt told the NASUWT conference yesterday:

AS-levels would return under Labour, pledges Tristram Hunt

Labour today pledged a “swift reversal” of the government’s unpopular decision to stop AS marks counting towards final A-level grades.

Tristram Hunt, shadow education secretary, told the NASUWT conference in Birmingham that Labour would not continue with the controversial policy of “decoupling” AS and A-level qualifications.

“When we assume office in May 2015, there will be a swift reversal of this policy and I am giving teachers and school leaders clear indication of that today,” he said.

To be honest, I’ve never had particularly strong views either way on AS levels. There’s strong arguments for the status quo and for reversing it. But I do know that, politically, the second position is the cheap shot. It’s a predictable position that provides easy attacks for an opposition, but unnecessary hassle for any future Labour government and uncertainty for those likely to be affected by any changes. There are those who will be happy if Labour’s education policy in 2015 is a list of items such as this, i.e. changes Michael Gove has made that will be reversed. Such a list might please the education establishment, but it is not a serious programme for government. “Back to 2010” is not an appealing slogan even for those of us in the small minority who voted Labour in 2010.



  1. Reblogged this on The Echo Chamber.

  2. Hunt does exhibit a tendency to move with the wind on policies. It’s not confidence-building.

  3. Assessment reform has been paralysed by party politics for the last 25. The only real hope of change is grass roots professional support that bypasses the log jam but that is not going to be easy.

  4. Although I can’t stand Hunt and I’d take Gove over Hunt as Education Secretary any day, I will say this: politicians don’t change their minds about things often enough. We all get things wrong and none of us are infallible and often in life you need to stand up and say “you know what – I got this wrong so I’m changing my mind.” Politicians see this as a sign of weakness and try to avoid it at all costs. There must be so many examples in history of bad things happening because of politicians’ refusal to back down, admit they might have been wrong and change their mind.
    Allow me to reiterate my most important point though – Hunt is a plonker.

    • >Politicians don’t change their minds about things often enough
      It’s extremely difficult to do when the press are not interested in politics or policy but only in selling the story.
      And “U-Turn from xxxx” is a headline they love.
      >Politicians see this as a sign of weakness and try to avoid it at all costs.
      No, those who comment on their actions can trade it as a sign of weakness.
      It’s like performing for Ofsted. We all know that “showing progress every 10 minutes” damages the education of the children we’re supposed to be helping but we know we have to play our part in the show.
      And then there’s the whole problem of actually being in charge.
      I like a lot of what Gove’s done. But there’s a fair bit I don’t like (and can support my objections with reasoned arguments and, given time, evidence), but Gove’s problem is there are 2 or 3 million people who also think they know what’s wrong with education and what should be done to fix it – and he can’t listen to all of us.
      In the end he has to put faith in himself and maybe in a small group of trusted advisers. Frustrating for those of us not in that group but there really isn’t another choice.

      • “It’s like performing for Ofsted. We all know that “showing progress every 10 minutes” damages the education of the children we’re supposed to be helping but we know we have to play our part in the show”
        Speak for yourself. When I’m observed I teach the same as when I’m not being observed, and that does not involve showing progress every 10 minutes. It’s a question of integrity. If you’re doing things that you know are detrimental to the education of the class in front of you you really need to ask yourself why you went in to education in the first place.

        • Then you are clearly in the fortunate position whereby you can act with integrity and not suffer for it at the hands of ideologically impeccable useful idiots. We have lost good teachers who made incredible progress but refused to play the game. I make it quite clear to my students that when an observation’s taking place, we do things differently and if asked…”yes we do this all the time.”
          Now I’m sure you’ll think this is bogus and dishonest, but look at it this way:
          a) it’s ‘role play’
          b) it’s collaborative
          c) it develops students’ empathy in that it enables them to empathise with the observer and ‘act out’ what the observer wants to see
          d) the whole thing is group work, writ large, with me as the ‘facilitator’
          In fact, now I come to think of it: it’s outstanding.

  5. […] His views on AS-levels being examined in year 12. […]

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