‘The three-year GCSE works for us – and here’s why’

As the profession winds itself up into a frenzy at the release of a new Ofsted framework, and any event with the word “curriculum” in the title is selling out faster than Aldi at Christmas, I start to wonder if we have lost our sense of perspective. One headteacher tells us why a change in curriculum works at her school in Tes

 I recently commented that Twitter felt like a tsunami of “one-size fits all” solutions to education. Specifically, can we stop making dramatic statements about key stage structures and curriculum design?

Before you judge, I applaud the greater rigour and deeper knowledge. There is ambition and aspiration in my staff and students linked directly to their subject, not to outcomes. Broadly, I view the reformed GCSEs and the renewed focus on what we deliver and why as “a good thing”.

However, this is not new; we started this conversation three to four years ago. Whilst others danced to the tune of performance measures chasing the latest “hot qualifications”, many thought long and hard about curriculum design, our students, our community and what we believed to be right. For us, that included a decision to structure a two-year KS3 with a three-year KS4.

Key stage 4 includes all statutory areas, including highly rated PSHE/careers education. Students opt for four other subjects to study to GCSE level or equivalent. The offer is broad and enables progression through to key stage 5 in all areas.

Two of the GCSE option choices run for two years with final exams at the end of Year 10 and the other two choices for three years with final exams at the end of Year 11. All courses have the same value and are allocated the same curriculum time.

Students complete their full national curriculum entitlement at KS3 in all subjects taught discretely. Students are challenged and engaged from day 1. There is no behaviour dip or drop of standards.

NHS East Sussex studies repeatedly show that the major health concern of young people in this locality is mental health and anxiety. Under current examination specifications, a Year 11 student sitting all their exams in four options and core in the same year would experience up to 30 exams in one summer. 

By structuring KS4 differently, this is alleviated and students stay calm, healthy and balanced whilst maintaining greater options for KS5. Student and parental feedback repeatedly tells us that staggering GCSE entries reduces workload and stress.

Read the full article ‘The three-year GCSE works for us – and here’s why’

What do you think? Please tell us your thoughts in comments or via Twitter ~ Tamsin

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