Taking GCSE exams is like a ‘sportsperson training for Olympics’ says principal

PUBLISHED: 14:20 22 August 2019 | UPDATED: 14:48 22 August 2019

Chantry Academy Principal Craig D'Cunha Picture: GREGG BROWN

Chantry Academy Principal Craig D'Cunha Picture: GREGG BROWN

GCSEs are more gruelling than ever before according to an academy principal in Ipswich - who likened the experience to a sportsman training for the Olympics.

Principal of Chantry Academy Craig D'Cunha Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWNPrincipal of Chantry Academy Craig D'Cunha Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWN

Craig D'Cunha, principal at Chantry Academy, said the increasing pressure caused by the national exams is impacting on the mental health of students, and their teachers.

It comes as the National Education Union (NEU) releases results of a survey which shows 73% of teachers believe student mental health has worsened since the introduction of the reformed GCSEs.

Its research, a survey of 650 of its members who taught GCSEs last year, reveal 54% of them believe students ability is less accurately recorded than before.

-MORE: Live GCSE results from Ipswich and Felixstowe

Nansi Ellis, Assistant General Secretary of the NEU, said: "Assessment in the majority of subjects by end of year exams only, and excessive content crammed into too short a time, is resulting in an exam system that is largely about regurgitating facts with very little time for thinking or deeper learning. Not only does this fail to reflect students' ability but is leading to many feeling disillusioned, disengaged and stressed."

Helen Winn, principal of Ipswich Academy. Picture: ANDREW PAPWORTHHelen Winn, principal of Ipswich Academy. Picture: ANDREW PAPWORTH

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-MORE: Live GCSE results from East Suffolk

Mr D'Cunha echoed the NEU's comments, and said: "The new GCSEs are tougher and the pressure in schools to get the same results is huge. It doesn't only have a mental impact on the children but the staff too.

"I think the people in Whitehall and the Department of Education, while they are making these decisions, they don't always see the impact it can have.

"While we are preparing them for challenging circumstances, aren't we also preparing them for a job?

"There are not many careers that two years' work comes down to how you perform on one day.

"The only career I can see is akin to it is a professional sportsperson training for the Olympics."

Helen Winn, principal of Ipswich Academy, said the school had been working to try and make the exam period as relaxed as possible for students.

She said: "We are very meticulous about the exams to make sure it's as low stress as possible. We walk them though what will happen second by second from the day before to make sure they are relaxed."

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