Last week I read an intriguing article in The Telegraph asking ‘Would you pass your driving test if you re-took it today?’.
Worryingly, I am not sure I would pass another driving test, and this piqued my interest in another way: if I resat my GCSE and A Level exams, would I be able to pass them? Would I achieve the incomparable and excellent results our students do? As you may have seen in The Sunday Times last weekend, Ipswich High have been ranked as top performer in GCSEs in Suffolk for 2017; a true testament to our students, our teaching and our ethos.
Since I took my GCSEs and A levels, both exam syllabuses and content has dramatically changed where the knowledge required now is deeper and richer. It is no longer sufficient to repeat information; pupils are now required to apply their understanding and knowledge within an exam setting. In addition, with the introduction of the recent GCSE and A Level reforms, exams have once again become linear, with less coursework and an importance placed on the end of year exams.
So, would I pass my driving test again? I’m not sure.
Would I pass my GCSEs and A levels now? If I was a student here, then undoubtedly, yes.
Oona Carlin, Head
From Nicola Griffiths, Deputy Head
I am mindful of the additional exam stress that these new linear GCSE exams place upon our students, which is why we have responded by designing our GCSE curricula to be taught over three years rather than two, so students start their GCSE studies in Year 9 giving them a very solid grounding before they move into Year 10. Science and Maths have always historically been taught over three years due to their content, but our decision to extend this to all of our GCSE subjects is one that makes common sense and is distinct from many other schools, not just in Suffolk, but across the country. It is clear that this approach has been effective as in the recent Parent Power league table published by The Times, Ipswich High School is top place in Suffolk for GCSE result and placed in the Top 10 across all schools in East Anglia.
I recognise that it is not just the students who are experiencing the reforms to the exam system, parents are too. Understanding the new system and what the changes mean to your children is as important as the teaching itself. We know that parents play such an important role in supporting and nurturing children to learn and we as teachers appreciate everything parents do. It is at home that children develop an ingrained passion for learning, where they start to think creatively and most importantly, a place to unwind.
At school, we do everything we can to support our pupils in the changing educational environment – whether it be explaining new exam courses, introducing new ways of teaching or new presenting new subjects.
Finally, in answer to the burning question….would I pass the GCSEs today? I do not know, but I do know that our students are clever, intelligent and resilient learners who seek out knowledge and I have no doubt that they will!