Make GCSEs 'accessible', say AQA's new pupil advisers

By Catherine Lough on 16 January 2020

"I firmly believe that it is only through listening and engaging with young people in groups such as this that we will be able to make any real or meaningful change," says chair of exam board's new student group

A new student group set up to advise England's biggest school exam board on GCSEs and A levels wants exams that are both "accessible" and "relevant" for young people.

Speaking at an event at the House of Commons last night, the chair of the group, Ellen Blacker, who recently sat the reformed GCSEs, said she wanted to help develop exams that felt more "approachable" for young people. 


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The group, set up by AQA, was developed to provide a student's perspective on the exam process. The board began recruiting students for the group in November last year

"As a student from a rural state school in Devon, the area I personally feel strongly about in our exams system is to make the process not only rigorous but accessible," Ms Blacker said.

There have been growing concerns about the level of difficulty in the intentionally tougher, more academic reformed GCSEs sat from 2017.

Last year, heads warned that the qualifications were "detrimental" to lower-ability students.  

Ms Blacker said: "I firmly believe that it is only through listening and engaging with young people in groups such as this that we will be able to make any real or meaningful change.

"This ability to help shape the future of exams into something more relevant and approachable for young people is why I am so excited and proud to be part of this group.

"As we move into a new decade, it is vital that exams reflect the diversity of young people, from academic ability to social background to those who have made the UK their home."

Ms Blacker said she also hoped the group would help AQA exams to "reflect those technological advancements that we have been seeing recently".

Elizabeth Kitcatt, a trustee of AQA and the headmistress of Camden School for Girls in North London, said she had noticed that many of the group's application statements "expressed concern about students who might be struggling and who might need additional support".