Research from the Charity Edge reveals that more than half of GCSE students (56 per cent) are uninspired by at least three of the subjects studied and 41 per cent are uninspired by at least four subjects (half of the average eight subjects taken).

Edge is dedicated to raising the status of practical and vocational learning. A lack of interest in a subject impacts directly on study performance – 46 per cent admitted they revise less for subjects that don’t motivate them, 40 per cent switch off in class and 30 per cent feel stressed studying for these exams.

Two thirds of the students polled (66 per cent) said their talents would have been better developed with a wider range of ‘hands on’ learning through practical and vocational courses. A majority (57 per cent) believe everyone should study at least one practical and vocational subject (e.g. engineering or hospitality) as well as academic subjects like English and maths. Most students (63 per cent) said they would have liked more subjects to choose from.

Topping the wish list for school based learning is computer programming voted for by almost a quarter (22 per cent). Criminology (21 per cent), film (18 per cent) and photography (17 per cent) follow in close succession. Other subjects voted for by young people include, Veterinary science, fashion and engineering. If a wider choice of subjects were delivered, 87 per cent said they feel they would have been better prepared for a job and 89 per cent say they would have more chance of finding what they are good at. A wider choice of subjects would also mean 73 per cent would stop feeling they have only been taught to test.

 Andy Powell, Edge chief executive, said: “The GCSE students of today are tomorrow’s entrepreneurs, entertainers and world leaders, but the current exam options don’t help all their talents to flourish. “This research proves the menu of options for young people needs to be much more varied, offering many paths to success. Edge is calling for a revolution in the education system to ensure all students can take a broad balance of theoretical and practical courses – alongside English, maths and science.”

 Some critics believe that GCSEs have almost had their day and that there needs to be radical changes. The charge is that they encourage learning by rote, and teachers to teach for the test and discourage creative, lateral thinking and offer no challenge whatsoever to the brighter pupils. Geoff Parks, director of admissions at the University of Cambridge, said that the current GCSE syllabus is a “treadmill” that does not “allow for originality”. “GCSEs are so prescribed — [they] do not stretch young people,” he said. “There is a growing feeling that they are not the best use of time.” Cambridge is receiving applications from students who have only the minimum required number of GCSE exams and up to nine AS levels, half of them taken a year early, he added. Andrew Grant, chairman of the HMC, said more independent schools will turn to the iGCSE this year in order to stretch their pupils’ minds. “We find that it’s a better discriminator among able pupils. The iGCSE seems to suit our pupils better,” he said.

Dr Anthony Seldon, the Master at Wellington College, which has just broken in to the premier league of independent schools, agrees that the GCSE has had its day but doesn’t believe that the IGCSE is the future., although demand has risen 15% in the last year.

Wellington, this September , is opting for the middle years programme of the IB which Seldon believes offers teachers more freedom to teach creatively and students more independence to learn for themselves Dr Seldon said of the MYP “It’s based on problem-solving rather than passive learning.” Wellington currently offers the IB Diploma as a post 16 option. Just a handful of schools currently offer the MYP.


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