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Head’s Blog – What are the alternatives to GCSEs?

13th December 21

Al McConville

For many schools the exams hiatus caused by Covid increased the desire to explore different forms of assessment, particularly at GCSE level.

In a recent article for the Times Educational Supplement (TES), our Deputy Head and co-founder of Rethinking Assessment, Al McConville, laid out the options available to schools who want to start doing things differently without waiting for the government to make overarching policy changes.

By looking at options which are already being explored by other schools he made a strong case that it’s possible to experiment within the current parameters, and that there is much to be learnt by doing so.

The article looked at five options:

  1. Do fewer GCSEs, and do something more ‘real world’ with the time gained
  2. Put other accredited courses into the options blocks
  3. Do fewer GCSEs, and develop your own non-accredited courses
  4. Do far fewer GCSEs, and develop your own curriculum around the bare minimum
  5. Write your own courses and get them accredited, or use other existing recognition frameworks

The article concluded that while schools might meet some resistance to change, and admits that it’s easier for Independent schools to take these kind of steps, examples from the state sector like XP School and School 21 show that reform is possible within the current framework and without jeopardising league table positions.

Al noted, “The pandemic has thrown assessment off course, and now every school leader has a choice to make. Do you strive as hard as you can to get back to where you were and just carry on? Or do you take this opportunity to experiment, and to find out what truly works best for your students and your context? I know which route I would prefer to take.”

This article originally appeared in the 26 November 2021 issue of the Times Educational Supplement under the headline “GCSEs : What are the alternatives?”

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