This year’s changes to GCSEs are “brutal”, difficult to understand and have left pupils hyperventilating, according to a snap poll of secondary teachers by the ATL teaching union.
Nearly nine in 10 (88 per cent) of respondents think parents and carers do not understand the new GCSE grading system. The teachers are also confused.
“I don’t understand it fully myself,” one respondent admits. Another asks: “If we don’t have clarity on the new grading system, how can parents and carers?”
Almost three-quarters (74 per cent) say that the subject content of the subjects they teach has increased “hugely” in the level of demand because of this year’s reforms, which were designed to toughen up GCSEs.
A maths teacher says: “Many of the questions we have been giving to Year 11 are too hard for the Year 12 students who scored A in 2016. I think this is probably a good thing, but the change has been rather brutal.”
Another respondent says they saw “pupils hyperventilating prior to their maths exam”.
A lack of time to teach the tougher GCSEs has also been a concern. One teacher says: “Five hours of English a week, plus one evening after school, plus workshops during every half-term holiday and we still can’t get through the course.”
Around half of the 140 teachers surveyed say their school has put on additional revision courses because of the GCSE reforms.
One respondent says: “Teachers are ‘encouraged by SLT’ to run revision sessions during holidays, but the pay is less than I pay my builder.”
The poll, also reveals that more than a third (34 per cent) of teachers say that the availability of support materials for teaching the new GCSEs has not been good.
One teacher says: “They were not ready for September when teaching began. This has made planning extremely difficult and very last minute.”
Some respondents suggest that financial issues have been an obstacle. One teacher says: “Textbooks? Are you kidding! Who can afford textbooks?!”
Jill Stokoe, an assessment specialist at the ATL teaching union, says: “A lot of teachers said they didn’t have access to CPD. Some schools couldn’t afford it.”