Education & Family

GCSE shake-up: Parents react

The GCSE exam system in England faces a shake-up which will mean a single end-of-course exam, fewer top grades and one exam board for each subject.

Pupils who have begun secondary school this year will be the first to take the revised exams in 2017. Here, parents of children who will be affected by the changes give their reactions to the announcement.

Karen Packham, Surrey

The timetable for the new exams means that my two daughters will sit different exams from each other. But who is to say that they will happen to sit the style of exam that suits them as individuals?

My daughters are currently in years seven and nine and due to sit their GCSEs in 2015 and 2017. One has just started secondary school is already facing a big increase in workload compared to primary school. I am not sure how she will cope having her exams at the end of two years.

At least if students are assessed along the way, parents can help them manage the pressure little by little.

I'm worried that schools won't have the time to change their teaching practices to guide pupils through a different system. I think it would have been better to fix what's there rather than pretend a clean sweep can sort out the problem.

Schools should have a choice of exam board, so that they can assess their pupils and put them through a testing system that suits the kind of individual learner that they happen to be.

Throughout primary school, teachers spend a lot of time making children realise that they are not all the same and that they learn in different ways. They make them see that they have choices about how they learn and that they can choose their own learning path. Changing the exam system seems to go against this.

Catherine Hodgson, County Durham

I have three children, the two older ones sat GCSEs and achieved very high grades, all A* and A. The youngest child will be examined under the 'improved' system, as he has just started secondary education.

I feel the comments made by the government and its representatives have undervalued the GCSEs of previous years. It is frustrating from a parent's point of view seeing your children work so hard and having endured years of modular assessment - along with the stress - be demoralised by comments with such a negative view.

I am looking forward to the 'improved system' to prove these sceptics wrong. There is enough pressure on children to achieve high grades without such demoralising comments from persons who pertain to have our children's best interests in their remit.

I was examined under the 'O Level' system and I can say my children worked harder than I did and achieved similar results. I wait in anticipation for the turmoil this new system will cause our education providers who are under constant pressure to achieve or else. When will the government learn to let teachers teach, as that is what they are trained to do.

Kay Cotterill, Worcestershire

My son is 15 and so will miss out on the changes thankfully. He suffers from dyslexia and dyscalculus.

When he has to sit formal examinations he becomes very ill with a stress-related illness and is often off sick from school. He would not cope well under the new system being introduced. In fact, I am sure that he would fail.

Earlier this year he had a formal exam and he fell to pieces. He was predicted a C/D grade and got an F. But when it's a small assessment, he does fine.

Schools need to look at the skill-set of the pupils to decide what route and exam would be best for them to take.

When I sat my GCSEs, I did ok, but every single student is different. People have different learning methods and a singular exam cannot always assess capabilities.

Liz Brimacombe, Devon

My daughter will be one of the guinea pigs for this "new idea". It worries me greatly as great emphasis is placed on these results - until you get the next set of qualifications.

She has just started secondary school and I hope that they are able to start the changeover from continuous assessment to exam focus now, otherwise that year will be ill-prepared.

My final comment is that doing a limited amount of work all year and then cramming like mad for a three-hour exam (as was the case in the O-level days) is not a skill relevant to most jobs. Having to produce quality work, under deadlines, sometimes project based throughout a year is far more applicable in today's world.

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