Reforming GCSE


Much has changed since the 1980s when GCSEs were first introduced. Despite various reforms, some Heads feel it's time for more radical change. Attain's Editor talked to Sarah Fletcher, High Mistress of St Paul's Girls' School and Stephen Jones, Warden of St Edward's School in Oxford.

Reform to GCSE is nothing new. Educators have been calling for changes for some time but the pandemic has not only increased the desire to look at things in a new light but also shown how quickly changes can happen.

For Sarah Fletcher, High Mistress of St Paul's Girls' School in London, GCSEs have simply not kept up with the pace of change in the last thirty years. "I think the fundamental problem is that the world is now very different to the one that existed back in the 1980s."

Core to Sarah Fletcher's concerns are the number of significant changes which have happened since GCSEs were first introduced. There has been a huge shift in digital technology, combined with the emergence of new areas such as virtual reality and artificial intelligence. She would like to see the emergence of 'a fourth R in our pencil case' to sit alongside the well-establish core of reading, writing and arithmetic so pupils can 'gain a real facility with the digital world'.

In addition, assessment is now no longer limited to the exam room and can take place equally well online or through opportunities to present ideas individually or as part of a group. "It seems very odd that we are still insisting on paper and pencil in an exam room," she points out.

Stephen Jones and Sarah Fletcher discuss academic rigour with Attain's Editor Matthew Smith – and whether there is a problem of perception regarding GCSE

Matthew Smith is the Editor of Attain.