Switching GCSE modules to finals ‘dumped on us mid term’—Bethnal Green Academy

PUBLISHED: 19:32 22 August 2014

Bethnal Green Academy's Head teacher Mark Keary

Bethnal Green Academy's Head teacher Mark Keary


The change from GCSE course modules to end-of-course final exams hit many schools battling to keep their pass-rates high.

The controversial switch came mid-term, as the government put the emphasis back to finals last November rather than wait till the end of the academic year.

It caused a dip in the nationwide GCSE results after a long run of year-on-year improvements.

But in London’s deprived East End, most Tower Hamlets secondary schools bucked the national downturn trend, with some like Bethnal Green Academy hitting their best-ever results at 80 per cent pass rate at A*-to-C including maths and English.

Even so, it was touch and go.

“The modules changing in November was a problem and very controversial,” the academy’s principal Mark Keary said.

“The timing was far from ideal—the switch was dumped on us mid-term.

“But we’ve held our ground because my staff simply re-evaluated the strategies we used and put greater focus on specific exam preparations.

“We demistified that experience of knowing their confidence and knowledge was ‘all or nothing’ when going into that exam.”

Switching back to finals after 20-year run of “easy option” course modules replicates circumstances that students will find further down the line like university, Mr Keary feels.

“There are pluses and minuses of switching to finals,” he added. “We would have liked more time to prepare for the switch, but we were clear about the rules changing, that we had to do different things to make sure pupils were prepared for those all-important finals.

“There has been criticism for a long time from employers and higher education that some modules were softer options, which can’t be good.

“You want employers who can make decisions about young people to have confidence in the robust exam system.”

Schools in tough areas like the East End “make differences to lives like no other”, Mr Keary tells you. They really do change the future for youngsters from deprived families.

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