Changes to this year's GCSEs and A levels have damaged students' mental health, according to a snap poll by the National Education Union (NEU)

Meeting with management

The survey, to which over 650 secondary school teachers responded, found 89 per cent believe that changes in the way GCSEs are assessed have made students anxious and stressed, while two-thirds said the same about A levels.

Both GCSEs and A levels more difficult

In many of the new GCSE subjects, students are being assessed solely via formal written exams, with no re-sit opportunities and no coursework or controlled assessment. 

Ninety-one per cent think that the new exams are much harder, demotivating and turning schools into ‘exam factories’.

The changes to A levels were intended to revise the content without increasing the level of difficulty. However, 83 per cent of teachers say the courses are more difficult.

One teacher commented:

“I have more cases of students exhibiting extreme anxiety, struggling to cope with the demands of multiple practical courses. Many are struggling with course content and the volume and depth of study required.”

Another said: “There’s a huge increase in pressure to succeed, increase in workload and revision and a feeling of inferiority due to more difficult content. It’s a constant feeling of failure.”

Another said that two of their students had attempted suicide.

Stress for staff as well as pupils

The changes to both exams also increased teachers’ workload, according to 87 per cent teaching GCSEs and 81 per cent A-levels.

“The lack of understanding about the new GCSE syllabus and having to guess the grade boundaries has led to more workplace pressure and stress for staff and pupils. Too much content, more planning and marking.”

Nansi Ellis, NEU Assistant General Secretary for policy, said:

“Not allowing schools to sufficiently prepare has put staff and students under tremendous pressure. 

“The Government needs to learn from this and make sure that teachers and students are given the support they need.”

Teenage girls studying robotic arm

Fewer grade 9s than previous A*s

Commenting on the GCSE results, NEU Joint General Secretary Kevin Courtney said: “This year it has been impossible for teachers to predict their students’ results because of a lack of certainty in the new 9-1 grade boundaries. 

“By design, success is being rationed and fewer people have received the top grade of a 9 than used to receive an A*.

“We are already hearing that students who were hoping for the highest grade have been disappointed to receive an 8, as they no longer see themselves as one of the highest attainers. As well as impacting students individually, this could lead to a substantial increase in requests for papers to be re-marked.”