I had a quick skim of the article and the assumption, to me, is probably correct to a degree. I say this in the sense that there is perhaps an extent to which middle class parents spend more time helping their children and making use of greater access to resources, but that removing coursework doesn't actually remove that advantage. Parents spending time and resources on attempting to confer an advantage on their children will be able to do so under a purely exam based system as well. What I hope will be removed, to some extent, is the plagiarism and spoon feeding of information inherent in a targets based coursework system. Unfortunately a lot of spoon feeding will remain through teaching to the test which is, to me, an inevitible consequence of league tables and the way that OFSTED works.
That’s a quote from a column in the Times Educational Supplement from 2008.
The truth, or otherwise, of that comment is – or rather, should be – central to the debate over whether or not the government is right to be proposing the ending of coursework as part of its GCSE reforms.
After all, if there’s a feature of the way we assess children that inherently benefits the middle class at the expense of others, that’s a pretty good reason for changing it, isn’t it? Perhaps not a killer argument that closes down all debate, but at least a pretty important one to bat around.
Which is why I’m a bit baffled by so much of the heat and even the few shards of light in the debates over the last few days. Plenty of people have plenty to say – except about this central question.
Perhaps all those critics of abolishing coursework know better than me, and since 2008 evidence has piled up so overwhelming that the comment is wrong – and this is so widely known by everyone (except, er…, me) that it doesn’t even need saying. Or perhaps what should be a key part of the debate is being ignored…?
I know that amongst my readers there will be many who know far more about this issue than me. So comment away and let me know: is the idea that coursework favours middle class students now thoroughly discredited, and if not what’s the reason for people not talking about that in all the exam debates this week?
UPDATE: There’s a good discussion on this question over on Facebook.