The purpose of this report is to lay out a solution to the one-size-fits and outdated GCSE system in the UK, a new approach that takes into account society’s growing dependence on technology and the compelling alternatives to a University education. We aim to start a national discussion with all stakeholders on how to modernise GCSEs. Our view is that a rollout of personal computers and a new focus on developing foundational digital and employability skills provide a strong starting point.
The first section of the paper examines how digital skills can be included in the curriculum, the main challenges are the time and costs required to implement this across the syllabus, however, by 2030 94% of UK workers could lack the key digital skills to do their jobs there is a sense of urgency on how to incorporate the change. Secondly, employability skills are looked at, the challenge is that some abilities are rather hard to teach so the approach of nurturing versus training can be considered, and ultimately with a diverse range of next steps for further education, A-levels, T-levels, apprenticeships and BTECs, certain employability skills are universally necessary to pursue any of those paths successfully such as rewarding comprehension versus short-term memory. Finally, ensuring a level playing field of digital access by rolling out personal computers to GCSE students, despite the cost of £1.2 billion, which of course can be lowered in different ways, is overwhelmingly recognised by teachers as the single most helpful way to support disadvantaged students.
Therefore, to modernise GCSE education we recommend:
£1.2 billion investment in personal computers for students
This includes £84.2 million to purchase Office 365 access for all GCSE Students
Curriculum shift to embrace digital and employability skills
Assessments to allow word processors to be used by all students in exams
Assessments to test understanding rather than memory by increasing the amount of coursework and introducing some open book exams