Beech Hall School’s pioneering headmaster, James Allen, is preparing to sit the 2018 GCSE Maths and English Language examinations.
The headmaster at the Tytherington-based school has put himself in his pupils’ shoes by experiencing their challenging lessons, arduous revision timetables and anxieties, in readiness for the impending all-important examinations.
During his demanding preparation, James is exploring the validity of the existing GCSE examination system, questioning if it could be much more purposeful for real-life situations including additional learning, job applications and future careers.
Whilst preparing for his upcoming exams, James Allen commented: “The importance of putting myself into the same position as my pupils is to not only understand exactly what they are going through, but to identify ways in which the process could be made much more meaningful to them.”
“Throughout my studying, it has been interesting to investigate the mismatch between teaching essential skills and teaching children to tick the exam mark scheme boxes, sometimes doing so without actual understanding,” continued James. “When generating my creative writing piece for instance, I expected it to be commended as outstanding however, I soon learnt from our English teacher that in order to secure extra marks I needed to add further linguistic elements. The piece didn’t need any additions yet the marking scheme did.”
Throughout my studying, it has been interesting to investigate the mismatch between teaching essential skills and teaching children to tick the exam mark scheme boxes
“I believe we need to prepare our pupils for their future education and careers, not just to pass their exams,” said James. “The GCSE speaking assessment for example, no longer carries value arguably due to inconsistent marking however, speaking is a key skill in their learning. Oral presentations are an important aspect throughout life and as educators, we need to ensure that children are ready for this. There is great value in making GCSE assessments meaningful and purposeful, rather than just passable.”
James Allen has a BA (ed) Hons, Education, English and Drama from the University of Exeter and an MA in Inclusive Education from Brunel University London.