Pupils are studying Macbeth every year for five years because the government’s GCSE reforms have narrowed the key stage 3 curriculum, a union conference has heard.
Delegates at the annual conference of the NUT section of the National Education Union unanimously backed a call for a review of the curriculum, and efforts to find a model for assessment in key stage 3.
Emma Mort, from Warwickshire, quoted ministers who said the new exams and curriculum would be more rigorous, more stretching, and “world class”.
However, she said the tougher exams had led to pupils writing on their papers “I’m so sorry, Emma, I’m really stupid” and “I’m so sorry, Emma, I just can’t do this”. She added: “They don’t feel world class at that moment.”
She told delegates: “Year 7 students who no longer write poetry in their lessons because you don’t need to write poetry in GCSE any more, and students who do Macbeth every year from 7 to 11 because that is what is going to come up in their GCSE exams, they don’t feel world class either.
“And the students across the country who are self-harming as a direct result of the pressure they are put under to achieve their ranking, they don’t feel world class either.”
She added: “It matters not just to our students but to teachers too. Linking key stage 3 to GCSE outcomes in such a reductive manner has meant that many schools are now using totally inappropriate data to set performance management targets.”
She said her school was balloting for strike action against such targets.
Vendathal Premkumar, of Redbridge, said there is a lot “moaning” about the curriculum in staffrooms.
She told delegates: “Classrooms are now wholly about passing the exams. Students are drilled into how to do the exam and on assessment techniques. They are then tested again and again and again until they meet their over-inflated target grades.”
She said the consequences were “devastating” for pupils’ mental health, and that they would be left with “scars and anxieties for the rest of their lives”.