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Secondary school kids struggling with mental health issues caused by reformed GCSEs

SECONDARY school pupils struggle with their mental health due to the reformed GCSEs, teachers said ahead of results day tomorrow.

The new and more exam-focused courses are damaging young people’s mental wellbeing, while failing to reflect their abilities, according to a poll of teachers by the National Education Union (NEU).

A vast majority of surveyed teachers — 73 per cent — said that teenagers’ mental health has worsened since the introduction of the new GCSE qualifications in 2017.

Nearly two-thirds of teachers said that the reforms have led to students becoming less engaged with education.

Over half — 54 per cent — said that students’ ability is less accurately recorded by the reformed GCSEs.

Formerly GCSEs were graded A*-G and included exams, coursework and controlled assessments taken throughout the courses.

The reformed “linear” GCSEs are graded 9-1 and have seen many subjects assessed solely by exams taken at the end of the courses.

The new qualifications have led to students feeling that they are overwhelmed, stressed and have a persistent sense of failure, the NEU said.

Teachers said that there is “too much to cram in” and the information is “not relevant to [students’] concerns, not practical.”

One teacher said: “Students are engaging with purely exam aspects of subject, ie how to answer an exam question, rather than developing a passion for the subject.”

NEU assistant general secretary Nansi Ellis said: “Serious consideration is needed” by government over how best to assess students’ abilities.

“Students are often regurgitating facts with very little time for thinking or deeper learning,” she added.

A separate poll by the Association of School and College Leaders (ASCL) found that eight in 10 heads believe the reformed courses were having a detrimental effect on struggling students.

ASCL general secretary Geoff Barton said: “The findings of this survey reflect widespread concern that reformed GCSEs have sacrificed the interests of the most vulnerable students for the supposed benefits of raising the bar for the most able students.

“The government has seen increased rigour as an end in itself without fully considering what it wants the exam system to achieve for all students of all abilities.

“As a result, we now have a set of GCSEs which are extremely hard to access for students with lower prior attainment. This is incredibly stressful and demoralising for these young people.”

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