This summer about half a million students sat the reformed GCSE exams. Following months of uncertainty and speculation about the content and difficulty of these exams, with reports on the rise in stress, anxiety and other mental health issues experienced by pupils as a result of the changes to the curriculum, results are nearly in.

The new GCSEs, introduced by former Education Secretary Michael Gove in 2014 following claims of the GCSE curriculum being ‘dumbed down’ and that grades were being inflated, are designed to be more challenging and rigorous. There will be a new grading scale of 9-1 (rather than the old A*-G) to reflect this with this new grading system being said to offer more differentiation than the previous grading. Gone are modular assessments and in their place more exam-, rather than coursework, based assessments that are taken at the end of a two year course. The content is more demanding and there are far fewer resit opportunities.

The new GCSEs, claimed by Gove to be “gold standard” and “more fulfilling”, have inevitably posed challenges for students and educators alike. Many schools are now opting to start teaching the GCSE curriculum early to deal with the more difficult exam papers and best prepare students for what lies ahead. However teachers have voiced concerns about the new content being opaque and the teaching guidelines too vague. There have also been concerns relating to the KS3 syllabus being “watered down” due to students starting the GCSE syllabus early, often at the beginning of year 9. Chief Ofsted inspector Amanda Spielman has argued that this may lead to students missing out on a rich and varied curriculum due to merely being taught to pass exams.

Whilst that concern is certainly valid, here at BYT St Albans we have been speaking to students and teachers about their experiences and it has become very clear that most feel that the jump from KS3 to GCSEs is too high, particularly with the new challenging exams. Students often feel the expectations and content taught in year 10 are far beyond what they have familiarised themselves with in earlier years and this is often a shock to the system.

With this in mind BYT St Albans have recently introduced a new class to help bridge this gap between KS3 and GCSEs. Our ‘Pre GCSE’ class is specifically designed for students in year 9 who want to start building the skills needed for GCSEs, and is offered in English, maths and science. As a tuition centre we feel uniquely placed to help students with the challenges faced by the recent curriculum changes. Classes are small, which allows for tuition that is tailored to the individual, and our timetable is flexible so that students can fit their study with us around school. We don’t believe in ‘hot-housing’ students to pass specific exams and feel that the best results are gained by building skills and confidence over time. We feel that our Pre GCSE classes offer just that, a chance for students to gain critical thinking, analytical and problem solving skills particularly geared towards the GCSEs which will offer students a solid foundation from which to move in to year 10 and 11.

For more information about this class or to discuss how we can help have a look on our website or give us a call on 01727 260 239.

Sofia Carlson-Haynes

BYT St Albans