Northern Ireland

Study finds young people want more say when it comes to GCSEs

Young people want a greater say on the GCSE subject selection process
Young people want a greater say on the GCSE subject selection process Young people want a greater say on the GCSE subject selection process

TEENAGERS want more choice and fairness when it comes to their GCSE experience, new research has found.

A study by Queen's University Belfast heard young people claim they wanted a greater say on the subject selection process.

The research drew on data from 38 schools - 20 in Northern Ireland and 18 in Wales - in which 1,600 pupils completed a questionnaire and took part in focus group sessions.

The findings have now been published as one of several working papers on the theme of inequalities and the curriculum by the Centre for Longitudinal Studies at the UCL Institute of Education.

GCSEs are the main school-leaving examinations taken by 16 year olds in Northern Ireland, England and Wales.

For many pupils in these jurisdictions, the curriculum they experience between 14-16 years is effectively made up of GCSE syllabuses across numerous of subjects that they have chosen to study.

Professor Jannette Elwood, from the School of Social Sciences, Education and Social Work at Queen's and co-author of the paper, said: "The data collected in the study focused on issues around choice and fairness in relation to the inequalities experienced by students through their GCSE programmes.

"Overall, we found that students felt their options at GCSE were restricted and they raised concerns that subject option choices and GCSE specifications were things that they were never consulted about. The students felt they could and should be consulted more about the higher- level policy matters such as the curriculum they follow, the subjects they are able to choose at GCSE and how they are assessed."

The study also found that while GCSEs were labelled as the same examination and pupils were obtaining the same qualification in the UK, they actually reflected very different curriculum and assessment systems across Northern Ireland, England and Wales.

Dr Rhian Barrance, from the Wales Institute of Social and Economic Research, Data and Methods at Cardiff University and co-author of the paper, added: "These issues are increasingly relevant in the context of recent reforms to GCSEs that have resulted in the difference between the ways that GCSEs are assessed across the UK.

"GCSEs, while labelled as the same examination, are now very different entities across the jurisdictions."

The study found young people had sophisticated perspectives on curriculum inequalities, subject choice and assessment, and had the ability to make considered judgements for their own future.

It recommended that pupils could be consulted "when it comes to whose views are sought on any upcoming assessment reform, not only for GCSE programmes, but other significant examinations".

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