Beech Hall School’s Headmaster James Allen celebrated GCSE success with his pupils this year.
The Headmaster at the Tytherington-based school collected his results alongside the 2018 cohort after putting himself in his pupils’ shoes to take the GCSE Maths and English exams. James received a grade 9 in English and grade 5 in Maths Foundation Tier.
During his time experiencing the challenging journey which his pupils have embarked on, James also tested the validity of the reformed GCSE system to question whether it could be made more purposeful for real-life situations such as additional learning and job applications.
James commented on his investigation: “It was an interesting and not entirely pleasant experience joining our pupils in their GCSE pursuit. Just as the current pupils were the experimental babies in the new examination system, which now numbers grades from 9 to 1, I was also part of that experimental group experiencing GCSEs for the very first time.
“When preparing for my English exam, our skilled teaching staff informed me that although my writing was good enough for a high grade, my chances to attain higher could be improved with the use of more complex language features, despite it not being necessary. I developed a strategy to memorise a sentence which used as many linguistic techniques as possible, regardless of the actual need, which led me to question, are we teaching for actual understanding or teaching to the test?
“Not only has preparing for and sitting the GCSE exams enabled me to comprehend what the pupils are going through academically but, psychologically too. 30 years on, the experience was no more pleasant, no less anxiety-inducing and no less painful than when I sat my O Levels. This experience has reaffirmed my view that as a school, we need to continue to provide our pupils with a learning environment which offers a balanced focus on academic attainment and the development of the child as a whole.”