Why the leaking? A theory.

The government, deploying its favourite form of policy-making, has today leaked its tentative proposals for replacing exams.

The Sunday Times received the story. For those without access, here are two key passages:

Under the proposals, children will sit tests or “mini” exams in schools, to be marked by their teachers. The tests, which will be devised by exam boards, are likely to be taken late in the summer term, when it is hoped that coronavirus infection rates will have died down enough for schools to be fully reopened.

“Neither the tests nor the internal assessments will have to be taken on a single date across the nation. It is not known how examiners will be able to stop children simply telling one another what is in the papers, if they are held on different dates in different schools.”

It seems odd that the proposals should be leaked midway through a consultation process. Indeed, one wonders: ‘Why now?’

For anyone who cares, I have a theory:

This feels like a test balloon. Gavin Williamson – who generally prioritises politics over, well, everything else – might be trying to get a sense of the popularity of these proposals. (God knows his poll ratings need a boost.)

Yet here’s the problem: the validation he is seeking is not from experts (i.e. teachers and school leaders), but from the likes of the Mail and the Telegraph, who have been prominent in the past year for their criticism of teachers. One suspects that if they laud these proposals as a sensible solution then Ofqual may end up sticking with them.

This is, of course, all speculation. But when you operate, as Mr Williamson does, in a way that consistently fails to provide clarity or transparency then you leave room for people to speculate – if only so they can try and figure out what the hell is going on.

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