The Times Education Commission is the latest body to call for an overhaul of GCSE examination. Nansi Ellis considers what is wrong with our current system and how we might change it...

As we come to the end of summer exams, many will breathe a sigh of relief. In-person exams have resumed, and while there were changes it has felt like a return to “normal”.

But the questions aren’t going away – why are we still commandeering school gyms for teenagers to sit in silent rows, hand-writing what they can remember in eight and 16-mark segments, in papers that will be painstakingly collected and driven around the country to be marked?

What is wrong with the system?

Not everyone is dissatisfied with the current model. Nick Gibb, former minister for schools, told his successors “to resist the siren voices of those who call for GCSEs to be abolished”, arguing that it would widen the attainment gap, leave too many students without any academic certification, and allow weak schools to grow weaker (Gibb, 2021).

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