The all-consuming new system is causing stress-induced illnesses and has little relevance outside of school
Reading teachers’ and students’ accounts of the immense stress and mental health issues caused by the introduction of the new GCSE exams this year is heartbreaking. “The new GCSEs have broken my best students, left some with serious stress-induced illnesses, and isolated the majority, leaving them completely apathetic towards their own learning,” said one teacher. A student reports: “I have seen the mentally toughest people crack and it’s painful to watch. People crying over being unable to do a maths question. Is this what we want as a nation, to be put under this mental stress?”
Exams are not exactly known for making teenagers happy, but the misery should at least lead to something useful at the end of it. GCSEs as they previously stood were so forgiving that their usefulness was often called into question – but instead of reforming them, former secretary of state for education Michael Gove decided to take them back to the days of the O-level. The new GCSEs emphasise tough, stressful end-of-year examinations over coursework and regular testing: teacher friends tell me that even in subjects where the content of the syllabus hasn’t changed enormously, the way that students are tested on it has become much more stressful.
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