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Having just read this article about the new GCSEs that we will be blessed with come September 2015 I am highly intrigued to how they will pan out.

Yes perhaps it is good for fourteen-sixteen year olds to read a Shakespeare play and a 19th Century novel - in fact I think that's a really good aspect of the new GCSEs - but the focus on examinations is something that I do not agree with. As someone who attends a competitive comprehensive I felt enough pressure as it was to do exams and I still do as I am finishing my A Levels. The coursework aspects of the courses I took - particularly as someone who found essay writing particularly difficult back then - were a welcome relief and a chance to develop and engage in essay writing. I understand that students will do 'mock essays' but this only increases pressure on students to actually do them - since they won't have 'official' deadlines - and more pressure on teachers to be constantly working on and improving the students writing styles since the level of competition will be much higher at the end of the two years.

Furthermore even as it is students show a lot of negativity towards exam texts and as an A Level English Literature student I can safely say that a 19th Century novel was difficult to study - and I'm someone who reads a lot! The level of enthusiasm a teacher would have to engage to get twenty to thirty fifteen year olds to invest themselves in a novel like Jane Eyre would be pretty high.

I'm not one to be skeptical but I reckon these new GCSEs are going to be incredibly challenging for family life, for the students' well-being and on the teachers as well.


  1. The focus on exams is something that astounds me, the people making these decisions are people who have had it pretty easy in school, they are very intelligent people! However intellect seems to have gotten in the way of common sense and understanding.
    Personally I was always a high achiever, until GCSE, yes I came out with mostly A grades, but it was a lot of hard work, and it was the exams that brought down my grades.

    My prime example is media, I have always gotten A* grade coursework, but then I came out with a D in the exam giving me B, which broke me, because I knew the content, but my essay writing and long answers are something I find incredibly difficult especially under a time constraint.

    Yes, I think exams are the only way you can test some subjects, but I think that they should have a coursework element to allow those who don't find exams easy to at least give them a fighting chance of getting the grade the deserve.

    But I completely agree with you about 19th century novels, it's hard enough getting those who have chosen to do english literature to get excited about it, but kids who aren't interested and feel they are being forced into qualifications are not going to even try.

  2. Be skeptical. Just don't be cynical.


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