New exam is a gamble

Pupils try out GCSE which can cover dangers of casinos, drugs and under-age sex

TEENAGERS COULD soon be tested on the ills of drug-taking, gambling and under-age sex at GCSE. It comes after glowing reports from schools piloting a new personal and social education qualification for 15-year-olds.

Pupils at Bedwas high school, near Caerphilly, and Cyfarthfa high school, Merthyr Tydfil, will sit the first available qualification in PSE - the equivalent of half a GCSE - this summer.

Sue Rivers, assistant head of Bedwas high, has been involved in drawing up the new GCSE and is the chief examiner in the subject for Welsh exam board the WJEC. She said Year 10 pupils would be taking the exam this summer, one year before their other exams.

"We feel it will be invaluable to give children a taste of how to prepare for a GCSE exam," she said. "So far the reaction has been very positive."

The new exam has been devised by the WJEC and is being overseen by subject officer Brigid O'Regan.

"The subject is already included within the new Welsh baccalaureate so the work done counts towards that. This now gives pupils doing GCSEs the same chance to gain some credit for their hard work."

Ms O'Regan said that once the pilot ended it would be decided whether to offer it to every secondary school in Wales.

However, it has already been established that it will not be compulsory if it goes ahead. It follows criticisms last week from a leading PSE promoter who said not enough heads were allowing sufficient timetabling for the subject.

The current exam in PSE is based on the existing curriculum, which is under consultation. The results will be used to draft a new one in September 2008.

The consultation paper reveals aims to extend PSE to 16 to 19-year-olds, with clearer links to the other elements of the school curriculum within all four key stages and post-16 learning.

The current pilot GCSE is divided into three areas - citizenship, social, moral and health issues and sustainability with global citizenship. Each school taking part will have to be involved in a project, either with their local community or further afield.

Under the aims of the revised GCSE curriculum, emphasis will be placed on post-16 students to be financially literate, as well as benefiting the good of communities both globally and locally. Consultation on the PSE curriculum ends on March 31.

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