Students’ views on GCSE changes

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Students at Ballakermeen High School would support a move to break with the English GCSE system.

As the island’s Education chiefs consider whether to follow the route England takes on GCSEs, switch to the International GCSE (IGCSE) or move to the Scottish qualifications National 4 and National 5, we spoke to current GCSE students in year 10, and year 8s – the first to be affected – for their views.

Ballakermeen High School students

Ballakermeen High School students

Of the nine students we spoke to, not one said the island would be better off aligned with England.

And breaking the historic ties did not seem to be of concern.

Kiara Fleming, aged 14, said: ‘I don’t think it really matters or makes that much of a difference.’

Under the new GCSE system, to be introduced in phases from 2015, assessment will be entirely by terminal, external exams in most subjects.

And there will be no coursework or controlled assessment in most subjects.

All of the year 10 students we spoke to were in favour of coursework – with some thinking it should comprise a greater proportion of assessment.

Georgia Perry, aged 15, said: ‘I think it’s better to do coursework.

‘Exams aren’t a true reflection of how you have done throughout the year.

‘And exams cause a lot of pressure so you might be put off and not do very well.’

Georgia Moorley, also 15, agreed, saying: ‘At the end of two years of study you will have forgotten most of the stuff you learned at the beginning.

Michael Synnott, aged 13: ‘I see the idea of one exam at the end of study to be quite bad, as it’s an over-arching pressure to succeed.

‘The idea of having two or three hours to determine your future isn’t realistically going to work for everyone of different abilities.’

Under the new GCSEs in England, there will be no tiered exam papers in most subjects so that pupils of all abilities will sit the same exams.

The exams will also be more demanding so that fewer students will be able to attain higher grades.

Both Daniel Scarffe, aged 14, and Joe Raeside, aged 15, are doing foundation level papers in some subjects.

They are both against single tier exams.

Daniel said: ‘I think that the single tier option which England is going with is a bad idea, as I would never have got a C in my exams if I didn’t have the Foundation option.

‘You’d go into the exam feeling like you’ll fail.

‘Coursework is fun and more relaxed, whereas exams are more stressful and there’s more pressure.’

Joe said: ‘I struggle in some subjects and I’m doing foundation level in some.

‘I prefer it that way because it’s easier to get a C grade.’

He added that if he had to sit a more demanding single tier paper he would ‘hate it so much’.

‘I wouldn’t go in feeling positive, knowing you’re not going to do very well in it.’

One of the findings of the DEC’s public consultation, launched in April, was that 82.1 per cent of more than 800 respondents would find a move to the IGCSE acceptable.

Daniel Scarffe, aged 14, thought the University of Cambridge’s exam system was the best option for the island.

‘I’ve read in the paper that the IGCSE is proven to be a good exam board, as it’s from one of the top universities in Britain.

‘It mustn’t be faulty and it’s not politically influenced.’

Eight out of the nine students said they would choose the Scottish Highers system if it meant they would be guaranteed free university tuition.

This is the case for students who have lived in Scotland for at least three years, but not for those living in England, Wales and Northern Ireland.

Geoff Moorcroft, of the DEC said: ‘We have no reason to assume that students from the Isle of Man would be exempt from the payment of these fees.’

Some of the students admitted that they didn’t fully understand the differences between the three options Education chiefs are choosing between.

And they wanted more information on what the three routes would entail.

The ultimate decision rests with Education Minister Tim Crookall MHK.

It is hoped that the department will be in a position to advise schools next month.

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