Education unions have commented on the General Certificate of Secondary Education’s results, demonstrating the value of the UK public education system, and urged the Government to take further action to sustain the positive results.

The General Certificate of Secondary Education (GCSE) is an academically rigorous, internationally recognised qualification awarded in a specified subject, generally taken in a number of subjects by pupils in secondary education in England, Wales and Northern Ireland over two years.

NUT: favouring a “rounded education”

“Today’s GCSE results are a reflection of the hard work of pupils and their teachers throughout their study programme,” reacted on 20 August Christine Blower, General Secretary of the National Union of Teachers (NUT) affiliated to Education Internationals (EI), and President of the EI European region, the European Trade Union Committee for Education.

The increased take-up of certain subjects needs “to be looked at and considered carefully in the context of medium and long term trends,” she went on to say.

Measures such as the English Baccalaureate (EBacc) – a school performance indicator linked to the GCSE – are bound to have an effect on entries, but it is vital that the uptake of the ‘academic’ subjects they represent isn’t at the expense of learner choice, Blower noted.

She stressed that students must have the freedom to study areas which they find rewarding and in which they can excel.

Blower added that it is vital that we do not send the message to learners that areas such as performing and creative arts, design and technology, physical education or vocational subjects are of lesser importance than the EBacc subjects, as all of those areas contribute to “a rounded education” and “can form the basis of future learning and valid and rewarding career opportunities in sectors which contribute substantially to the UK economy”.

The NUT urges the Government to remove the EBacc and other accountability measures which narrow and distort the curriculum on offer to young people, she also underlined.

NASUWT: standards maintained despite tremendous pressure on teachers and students

Also commenting on the GCSE results, Chris Keates, General Secretary of the National Association of Schoolmasters Union of Women Teachers (NASUWT), another national EI member organisation, congratulated “the young people and their teachers who have worked tirelessly to deliver yet another year of excellent results”.

It is highly commendable that standards have been maintained across the board, despite the tremendous pressure our young people are under, she explained.

Keates also said that we must also recognise the hard work of our teachers, and the fact they have supported students to achieve these results “despite the burden of excessive workload, year on year cuts to pay, constantly changing policies and ongoing budget cuts”.

Today’s results provide an opportunity to celebrate the commitment and achievement of the workforce and our children and young people which is a hallmark of our public education service, she explained.

She added that what the Government will have to recognise is that if it wants a system which brings stability in outcomes year on year regardless of the performance of pupils, it cannot keep imposing on schools, through arbitrary targets, an expectation that results for all schools will always increase.