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Making the grade

Today was a day when many, justifiably, were celebrating outstanding academic achievement. However, for different reasons, both the government and opposition failed to make the grade. Exam result days have become somewhat ritualistic, there are winners and losers but no matter what the outcome it has become typical for the political classes, usually accompanied by the media, to frown sternly and wag their finger. Little thought is given by either side to the far-reaching effect that the different outcomes have on so many lives.

The government has however, have elevated this thoughtlessness to a whole new level. It is simply not fair that many pupils were denied a better grade in subjects, especially GCSE English, to satisfy the political whims of the Westminster class. It becomes even more unfair when you realise that had they been but a year older they would have obtained a totally different grade and their whole prospects would have been different.

Sadly, we should expect no better from a government which views us all as lab rats, pawns in its grand ideological designs. However, to play with the futures of so many in such a crass and uncaring way is a new low even for the current incumbents. Michael Gove has defined himself in his position by his subservience to ideological dogma and the ravenous gaggle of private interests looking to carve up the state education system in the name of making a quick buck.

Flexibility in the National Curriculum is desperately needed but when that extends to the teaching of a religious belief, ie, in creationism, as established fact, you can be pretty its not the kind of flexibility that will help educate critical, and socially and crucially, economically, active human beings. His desire to batter state schools into becoming academies, against the wishes of all those involved, is democratically abhorrent.

Mr Gove is many things and sadly, for us, a political heavyweight is one of the things he is. Meanwhile, his opposite number, Stephen Twigg, is scraping a featherweight. I accept that he is hampered by Labour’s continued lack of an over-arching meta-narrative with which to oppose the government but that still doesn’t excuse his generally poor performance.

He merely suggested that the government may be responsible for an unfair manipulation of the grading of today’s papers in the case of English rather than asserted what we can all see plainly to be a established fact. In being so equivocal he let down the students themselves, the teachers who had worked so hard and he let down his own Party. He had a golden opportunity to land a sucker punch on Mr Gove and he fluffed his lines. Furthermore, he has no real vision to oppose Mr Gove’s let-alone any sensible policies. So, even given the restraints placed on him by the wider problems Labour has, his performance in-office is consistently poor enough to warrant a swift reshuffle away from the education brief.

Labour’s political garden looks especially rosy at the moment. However, there are plenty of signs that this is due merely due to dissatisfaction with the government as opposed to popular enthusiasm for a early Labour return to the corridors of power. We cannot afford to be carrying dead weight like Stephen Twigg and have to be cautious.

At times, we barely look like an effective opposition, let-alone a potential government-in-waiting. Until we convert popular dissent into popular assent for our program the opinion polls will matter little in the grand scheme of things. Labour is sitting its own exam and there is along way to go for it to be able to reach the heights that so many achieved today.

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