Long read: Should we scrap GCSE mocks?

Schools have started running multiple GCSE mock periods, which has prompted some teachers to question whether these fixtures of the school calendar are really worth the hassle. Helen Amass talks to teachers and assessment experts to find out if it’s time for students to put down their pens for good in mock season in Tes. 

Question them at your peril – the benefits are obvious, right? Well, maybe not. Maybe schools should cut down on GCSE mock exams. Maybe, according to some assessment experts, schools should even stop doing them altogether.

Why do we still do mocks? On the surface, the benefits are clear. They allow students to test their knowledge, and practise all those parts of an exam that revision can’t prepare you for: writing at speed, checking your answers and (speaking from experience) always remembering to turn the paper over to check that you haven’t missed out an entire essay question.

I think GCSE mock exams do have value,” says Rebecca Foster, head of English at St Edmund’s Girls’ School in Salisbury. “They allow students to experience the conditions in which they will be examined in the summer, not just in terms of timing, but also to experience being sat in the hall without the usual cues and comfort of a classroom setting.”

But the critics are beginning to circle. On blogs, on social media and in staffrooms, questions are being raised about the relative value of the process, particularly of those ramped-up, super-endurance GCSE mock periods that seem to be increasingly prevalent. 

Mark Enser, head of geography at Heathfield Community College in East Sussex, is one of the critics. He believes schools need to consider the “opportunity cost” of mocks.

“GCSE mock exams seem to be getting more frequent in many schools and often result in several weeks of time lost from teaching,” he says. “This loss of curriculum time needs to be considered in a decision about whether the mock exams are worth doing.”

Read the full article of pros and cons  Long read: Should we scrap GCSE mocks?

What do you think? Too much time spent in exam halls, more stress and hours of additional marking Vs invaluable practice for the real thing.  Please tell us your thoughts in comments or via Twitter ~ Tamsin

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