Although I'm not universally convinced by claims of grade inflation (and have written about the examination system over at the Guardian), I do welcome some attempt to differentiate examination grades. There is no point in having an examination system that yields a homogeneous result, or has boundaries that are overly broad. That said, the manner in which Gove has set about regulating this is abhorrent, for several reasons.
Firstly, it is grossly unfair to take this action after the syllabus has been set and the exam sat. The criteria must be laid out at least two years in advance, so that teachers know what they are teaching and know the standard that is expected. Teachers of English have been working from sample material that purported to be of a specific grade, only to find out that, when their students came to sit it, this was not the case.
Secondly, teachers will be penalised. Teachers are held accountable in a cross-subject comparison. I know this, even if anecdotally, because my wife teaches GCSE English at a secondary school in London. Why, then, has Gove chosen to pick on English? Teachers in this subject will now be made to feel as though they are "making excuses" for their performance when, in actuality, the government has penalised them, with no warning. Other humanities subjects seem to have got off alright, but English is made the scapegoat. Thanks.
Thirdly, students will be let down, understandably. Alongside problems for them in gaining employment, this will also undoubtedly affect the number of students who study English at A-Level. This will, in two years, impact upon university admissions in this, traditionally massively over-subscribed, course.
The real problem with this attempt to curb grade inflation isn't so much the overall intention (I appreciate views differ on this), but rather that it is: 1.) subject-specific, instead of universal; 2.) retrospective; and 3.) introduced in a culture where teachers are made responsible for the government's ineptitude.