Rethinking Education: top London independent school moves away from traditional GCSEs

Words by Quintessentially Education

23 October 2023


Top London independent school, Latymer Upper School, paves the way for a new path instead of traditional GCSE exams.

Top performing London day school, Latymer Upper School, recently announced that they are changing how they assess students at the GCSE level. They explained that students starting in year 7 in September 2024 will be the first cohort to only sit GCSEs in Mathematics and English.

Moving away from the traditional method of assessment and in place of the conventional GCSE, all other subjects will follow the school's own curriculum, which aims to offer a broader, more varied syllabus. Students will be assessed by oral presentations, online projects, and field questions from an audience – all in addition to the more traditional exams we are currently used to.

This announcement received lots of attention in the media and has raised many questions about the way that GCSEs are assessed more widely, especially in light of results this year, with the number of GCSEs marked at grade 4/C decreasing from 73.2% in 2022 to 68.2%. So, we asked Lauren Williams, Super Tutor and Educationalist, to share her thoughts on these progressive changes.

Do you believe changes to conventional GCSEs will result in a favourable outcome?

‘Latymer Upper’s recent announcement has been met with general approval among educators and parents; the school’s reasoning is compelling, and their plans are exciting. Introducing a new and contemporary curriculum, challenging students via alternative means of assessment, replacing outdated end-of-course exams and – not least – reducing the stress placed on teenagers is a positive and progressive move. For students staying on at school until eighteen, there is in effect no need for the additional exams two years earlier. Instead, that time can be used for delivering a broader, more enriching education.

‘In addition, the new assessments will allow for more personalised recognition of achievements and abilities, and greater differentiation between students’ talents (a useful tool in a school where 93% of all GCSE results were a 7(A) or above this year).’

Do you anticipate that other independent schools will follow a similar course of action?

‘There has been growing dissatisfaction with the current GCSE system for some time, and Latymer Upper is well placed to pave the way for a new era. Many schools have realised, particularly after the Covid-19 disruption, that GCSEs are not necessarily the best fit for their students. Bedales has already been using their own assessed courses since 2016, and it is highly likely that others will follow suit.’

Do you think students who do not complete traditional GCSEs will face long-term implications?

‘The new courses will, I predict, be received well by both universities and employers. Innovation is important (even in the traditional world of independent school education!), and I do not believe there can be any downside for students whose school is taking a unique and modern approach.’

Looking ahead

We are confident that Latymer Upper will continue to be the extremely well-regarded and highly academic school we know it to be. However, it is certainly worth being mindful of these changes, which are to be taken into consideration when parents are thinking about senior school options for their children.

Beyond GCSEs, we are also anticipating changes for students aged 16 to 18. This follows Prime Minister Rishi Sunak’s announcement last week in which he unveiled his plan to replace A-Levels and T-Levels with a new qualification, the Advanced British Standard. Assuming this initiative is adopted by subsequent governments, the Advanced British Standard will take over a decade to come into effect, so we will take a deeper dive into the proposed changes as further information becomes available.

If you require support from an expert UK schools consultant, or if you are interested in finding out more about the changes to GCSEs, please email [email protected] or phone +44 (0)20 3073 6839. To read the full story through The Times, click here.


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