In 2016, various new initiatives were implemented into secondary education in an attempt to make GCSEs and A-Levels more difficult. Through changes in the grading system and the complexity of exams, it is utilised to challenge students to work harder. However, it has had mixed reactions from the public. Is it possible that this decision was too taxing for students to handle?

Many students across England, Wales, and Northern Ireland claim to be struggling with the new GCSEs as topics have become much more difficult and extensive. Though this may heighten students’ knowledge and understanding, it was a sudden decision that pupils did not expect. As a student, the scheme could have been implemented in a more gradual way. For example, by gently introducing some harder topics instead of changing the system completely over the course of two years

However, the new GCSEs have seen improving grades over the last few years. In the 2019 GCSEs, 20.7% of students achieved grades 7, 8 or 9. This major improvement in grades has outdone many other years. It has definitely reaped some benefits.

Nevertheless, the problem lies with the students. We are sitting these strenuous exams, and many are having to put immense pressure on themselves to achieve the highest marks. This stress can be extremely exhausting for teenagers, as we face tough challenges from a young age. Though these exams can help develop us for adult life, it can sometimes be too much to handle such pressure, where there is a lack of balance. Students need more support in order to make the journey of GCSEs smoother and more accessible. This is definitely possible through the application of support schemes within school.

Many schools offer personal schemes to help guide students and make them feel more comfortable with GCSEs. One to one sessions with a counsellor or looking into further education can bring numerous benefits to a student’s wellbeing, effectively improving their results. By reaching out to students who are struggling, it can help them create a positive and healthy environment for themselves, to be able to improve. However, the government must put more action into support for students to make sure that everyone is being individually assisted and not to simply base it of a student’s capability.

Ananya Sinha