Axing GCSE coursework bad for pupils diagnosed with behavioural problems, says head of outstanding Northamptonshire school

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The axing of GCSE coursework will cause problems for children diagnosed with behavioural difficulties, the head of an outstanding Northamptonshire school has said.

Conor Renihan, head of the 69-pupil Gateway School in Tiffield, said his teenage pupils, who have been diagnosed with the likes of Asperger’s and ADHD, find small parcels of work that make up an overall grade hugely beneficial.

But as of 2016. the entire GCSE grade for a particular subject will be based on one end-of-year exam.

Mr Renihan said: “That’s fine as a general idea, but for our kids it’s murder because of the higher vigilance and anxiety that they have.

“Because of their issues. they might need to sit in a particular place in the exam room or they might have real difficulty with the fact we need to take their mobile phone away while they sit the test.

“Getting rid of coursework really works against us.”

Gateway School - which Ofsted inspectors recently awarded the highest possible scores in all areas - places such high importance on its pupils getting GCSEs because it means, with four passes, they can go on to mainstream college.

With the emphasis on a GCSE final exam - as well as the upcoming axing of the expressive arts syllabus in 2017, which the school majored on - it means teachers will have to focus even more on other qualifications, such as BTECs.

The Department of Education has said the coursework element of GCSEs wastes teachers’ time and is open to cheating.

But Mr Renihan said: “What it has always allowed us to do is to encourage these children and say ‘that’s a brilliant bit of work but, also, it will do you a bit of good towards your final grade’.

“Now all of that has been taken away.”