UK: education unions express concerns about student and teacher’ wellbeing on the release of GSCE results

published 7 September 2018 updated 10 September 2018

The release of this year’s results of the GSCE, the certificate ending secondary education in the UK, have prompted teacher unions to criticise the latest governmental reforms in the education system, and express their concerns about student and educator health and wellbeing.

NEU: new GCSEs are narrowing the curriculum and adding to student stress

“The National Education Union congratulates all those receiving their GCSE results today, and those who have worked hard teaching and supporting students,” stated National Education Union (NEU) Joint General Secretary Kevin Courtney on 23 August.

However, he condemned the increased GCSE content as narrowing the curriculum. Courtney also pointed out that the return to assessment by end-of-course exams is damaging students’ mental health: “We are deeply concerned about the pressure and stress these new GCSEs have put on students and school and college staff, which has been exacerbated by the upheaval of the rushed implementation.”

He explained that removing most coursework and other non-exam assessment and just using end-of-course exams makes the exams extremely high stakes and is contributing to poor mental health among students.

“There is something wrong if many schools and colleges feel they need to start teaching these new GCSEs in year nine, and some even in year eight, to get through the more difficult and increased amount of content,” noting that this narrows the curriculum, squeezes out time for subjects such as music, drama, art and technology, reduces career options for young people and risks turning them off education.

He stressed that schools and colleges “should be freed from the current EBacc and Progress 8 straitjackets” and able to offer courses and activities which provide academic, vocational, personal development and life skills alongside, rather than at the expense of, knowledge, since all are important for life after and outside of school.

NASUWT: GCSE results, a testament to the effort that pupils have put in and teacher dedication

“Congratulations must go to pupils and their teachers for their hard work in achieving yet another impressive set of results,” stated National Association of Schoolmasters Union of Women Teachers (NASUWT) General Secretary Chris Keates, following the release of GCSE results.

She emphasised  that these results “have been achieved at a time of great reform and change to the exam system is a testament to the effort that students have put in and the dedication of their teachers in supporting their students to achieve their best”.

Insisting that “pupils have no doubt experienced particular anxiety around this year’s GCSEs as a result of the rushed and poorly planned introduction of reforms by the Government,” she deplored that for teachers, this has increased the pressure on them as, yet again, they been expected to plug the gap left by the Government’s failure to introduce these reforms in a coherent manner.

“While there is much to celebrate in today’s results, serious concerns remain about the price to the health, morale and wellbeing of teachers and young people in navigating our exam system,” Keates concluded.