Mock GCSE Exams Already?
It’s day two with the pupils and I’ve just administered my first of many mock GCSE exams of this school year. Before I’m shot down for endangering the mental health of Year Elevens, let me explain that it was in the context of a tutoring session rather than a class lesson and at the behest of the parent. The pupil in question has had scant rest from his parent’s anxiety over the summer, although he’s been exposed to this since KS2 SATs and thus far shows very little sign of any pressure being transmitted onto him.
Sometimes pupils are so relaxed they’re horizontal and the shock tactic of beginning the final year with a brutal kick-start can get them up and running. On the whole though, we’re not in the business of using shock therapy to get results.
Are schools just GCSE exam factories?
However, there is a tipping point for most of us when a focus on results overtakes the holistic approach. Those much-maligned exam factories that many of us have had the displeasure of working in suck the joy out of learning by treating Year Sevens as data figures to be successfully moulded. Training regimes might be implicit rather than explicit but even at KS3 assessing takes priority over enthusing and there’s little room left for individual flair or creativity.
If Year Eleven is the home-straight then it is to be expected that the finish line comes into sharper focus. On the other hand, to continue the sporting analogy, be wary of peaking too soon. There’s nine months left yet to keep them engaged, which is something that mock after mock after mock is simply not going to do. Practice makes perfect and a certain amount of training is undoubtedly required but Pavlov’s dogs wouldn’t ace their GCSE exams any more than Pablo Picasso’s. Minds may already be turning to next summer but we’re not even in autumn yet. When it comes to exam prep and revision, jamming information into their heads like pots to be filled is only likely to lead to breakage; take time to breathe and remember that well-conditioned learners will soak up information like a sponge.
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