Tag Archives: gcse

What next for our GCSE Students

I was actually quite surprised with myself. I thought that I would be nervous and stressed when I went with my eldest daughter to collect her GCSE results. Is it because, as a family of European migrants, we have never experienced before the actual exam period in the UK? Often, not knowing what to expect can actually be quite helpful! Having said that, 5-6 weeks of exams and revision were a true rollercoaster of emotions; tiredness, happiness when the exam went well, encouragement and motivation to continue learning even when the energy levels were low. 

I decided to accompany my daughter to her school to collect her important envelope. After a moment of hesitation, she decided to open it in her library. I was worried a bit that she might be unhappy with her grades, however she wasn’t. In actual fact, she did very well, in particular in the key subjects; Maths and English.

As a History teacher by profession, I found the English educational system interesting and at times, confusing. It has, like any other, advantages and disadvantages. Students are asked, as early as in Y.8 or Y.9, to drop some of the subjects and encouraged to select their GCSE options. Too early? In my view, most definitely. The same scenario applies to young adults, who decide to continue A-Level Education. After completing a few Sixth Form documents, my daughter was asked whether she is planning to go to University. She said yes, however she is still unsure what exactly she wants to do next. For her, making this decision is actually becoming a problem. She enjoys learning at least 5-6 subjects, however she needs to choose 3 topics/ courses. She still hasn’t made up her mind. 

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Do we need GCSEs?

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While all the attention was on students who were due to take their A Levels or GCSEs last summer, I was more concerned about those who will be taking their GCSEs in 2021. They are younger than A Level students, and most have not yet fully developed the skills of self-directed study, so still need a high level of teacher input and support.

The two years leading up to their exams next year will have been seriously disrupted. In Year 10 they were learning at home from March to July, and we are all aware of the huge disparities that produced, exacerbating existing disadvantages. In their current Year 11 they have just spent a strange term during which many will have had to quarantine at least once.

It seems headteachers have welcomed the arrangements that the Government has just announced for next summer’s GCSE exams. Students who miss their exams because they are self-isolating will be able to take backup exams in July or will be given teacher assessments. Hopefully, with a vaccine imminent, this will only affect a small number.

Of more significance is the news that the grading will be more generous, and that students will get advance knowledge of some of the topics that will be examined. This will help to compensate for the inevitable reduction in coverage of the syllabus by this cohort.

But this does make me wonder, not for the first time, why we have GCSE exams at all. The UK is the only country in Europe that still has formal public exams at 16. Of course, it made sense when the majority of young people left school at 16, as the results helped them find a pathway into work or into the next stage of education. However, today, between the ages of 16 and 18, all young people have to be in education or work-based training.

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Opinion: Michael Gove’s plans are a disaster for schools

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The publication last week of the All-Party Parliamentary Select Committee’s damning report into changes in qualifications at 16, signals a step-change in attitudes towards Michael Gove’s so-called ‘Education Revolution.’

The report makes for unsettling reading from a Liberal Democrat point of view.  And even Tory MP Graham Stuart, Chair of the Education Committee warns:

We have serious concerns about the Government’s proposed timetable for change. Ministers want to introduce a new qualification, require a step-change in standards, and alter the way exams are administered, all at the same time. We believe

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