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‘The exam system destroys our passion for learning’: a student’s view of GCSEs

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Everyone does exams and everyone hates exams. We adhere to the system because it is a simple way of comparing intelligence. But I have a feeling of dread about the planned increase in the difficulty of GCSEs. The complaint is simple: it’s not fair on the pupils.

GCSEs are a neat and tidy way of assessing students, yes, but those students – who have to embark, at age 14 or younger, on intensive courses in up to 12 different subjects all at once – are not feeling so neat and tidy by the final "pens down" of summer. Their hair is dishevelled, eyes droop with tiredness, clothes remain unwashed and crumpled on the bedroom floor, surrounded by revision cards covered in illegible smudged ink.

GCSEs cast a fateful shadow over teenagers' education, preventing them from truly valuing or appreciating the learning experience. Instead, most come to resent education and can carry this dissatisfaction around for the remainder of their time as students.

But instead of finding a way to instil a passion for knowledge in the young people of future generations, the government is going to make it harder. Literally.

We already know that English school pupils are some of the unhappiest in the world. With the pressure and competition I have experienced in today’s schools, I can honestly say that I am not surprised.

From where I’m sitting – exhausted and run down after finishing my GCSEs – the decision to introduce more demanding exams seems unwise.

Everyone seems to have conveniently forgotten just how difficult it is to be a teenager. Getting through those years should be a qualification in itself; it is a messy, terrifying roller coaster ride. Pupils become fraught with anxiety and the increasing mental health worries should have schools prioritising pastoral care and development over grades. Has a socially anxious insomniac with top grades really gained a valuable education that will equip them to deal with the world of work?

Education could be one of the joys of the teenage years. But we are going in the opposite direction, and soon the country will have a national crisis as generations of stressed, sleepless teenagers grow up and are expected to start running their lives.

Rhiannon Williams will be studying for her A-levels in Westminster from September

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