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GCSEs are like manual gear boxes – macho, anachronistic, pointless and damaging. As we celebrate our students on GCSE Results Day, the best gift we can give them is to abolish these right wing carbuncles on their future

As regular readers will know, we have on SchoolsCompared long been passionately opposed to the annual infliction of GCSE examinations on our children. They are exactly like manual gearboxes. Who hasn’t heard the spewing nonsense of men proclaiming that only those who use a stick shift are “real men” – “real drivers” – those that truly understand driving. Only stick shifts, after all, can enable you to do “doughnuts”, a strange ritual in which cars spin around making a lot of screeching noise and smoke, destroy tyres for no purpose and go absolutely nowhere. The fact that no one is even alive today who was around when they were invented in the nineteenth century is not mentioned by these oil covered luddites – nor the fact that none of those who engineered them would ever have believed their clever stop-gap solution would have lasted ten years, let alone a hundred. In fact, of course, manual gearboxes are, finally, being abolished by attrition- and at an extraordinary rate. Electric cars don’t use them – they are not needed. Not even the luddites would have the gall to argue we engineer something pointless into a system that doesn’t need them. Today, the number of students taking driving tests with automatics has overtaken those stuck in the past of manuals. Our young people are embracing the future, even as the older generations of (usually men) cling pitifully and nostalgically to their metal rods, utter stupidity and loss of power.

And it is the same with GCSEs. GCSEs evolved from the British “School Certificates” of 1918 which have laboured through various guises, each supposedly worse than their predecessors because they are “easier” and “not the true test of of being a productive, worthwhile man.” Plus sa change, plus ses les memes chose. Most of the older generation today can be heard moaning about the demise of O’ Levels that “were so much better and really tested you.” These macho types have been at the heart of everything, absolutely everything, that is wrong with education today – and the winners of a battle that has been fighting for generations between progressives, who see examinations as pointless vehicles of command and control, and vested interests, clinging onto power and their dreams of Empire. In fact there is nothing at all grand in this highfalutin pomposity. These exams at 16 are carried out by no-one else in the world except the British, and existed as a rather dull and technical mechanism to only decide who would eventually be allowed to stay in school, rather than leave school for work and a life of servitude as home makers or manual types.

And what exactly are these things supposed to measure? Exams favour boys over girls because they demand far more of an exercise in memory, rather than creativity and passion. In an age of hard drives, the value of what is human today is certainly in creativity and invention, not memory – if it ever really was. GCSEs, as most exams, are inherently sexist and backward. They throw out of the window the successes of our children as they learn and evolve at school, boys and girls, in favour of three hours, for the most part, of trying to regurgitate facts learned by rote – for many children a painful, anguished affair. They throw out of the window late developers, girls, those with dyslexia, or those who struggle to use a pen. They lessen the chances of those who do not have parents who have paid for an army of private tutors. In fact, when you think about it, they disadvantage girls, those without good memories, those who are talented practically, those who are late developers, poorer families, those who not academic – who is actually left? And the irony – computers and robots would wipe the floor with all of those that are.

Worse, they have been taken over by an elite who have sought to kill off every ounce of creativity and innovation in young people in the process.  The last form of this is something called rather mystifyingly, and definitely misleadingly, “””Progress””” 8. This says that the only subjects worth their salt are English, Mathematics, a couple of Sciences, Geography and History. Computer Science is thrown in to silence the critics. Other subjects are in practice also-rans. Art, Music, the Performing Arts, Technology, Engineering – all woke nonsense. And do not dare to talk about anything practical – those are for the dimwits. Do not speak of the ologies, ics and the ies – those are for left of centre, crazed woke-ists who are dangerous because they actually care about children and education, and think far too hard about how we can make society and human lives better and fairer. Schools are measured on this brazenly political right wing take-over of education formalised by Michael Gove, a strange British politician who believes in maintaining an aristocracy of academics – the needs of industry, the world and most children be damned.

Today, children are not even allowed to leave school at 16. You cannot even join the army in the UK until you are 17 years and 9 months. The whole point of GCSEs no longer exists – children cannot leave education if they wanted to. They do not need a certificate for employers because they cannot be employed. Today is a world where instead of less than 7% of young men and women leaving school for university, fully paid for by the state, more than 70% do – taking on close to 6-figure personal debt in the process.

And yet, here we go again – another GCSE Results Day. Our amazing children (and schools), yet again, run through a pointless, sadistic series of exams. And this year it’s even worse. Over the last two years, our children (and schools) (and parents – all of us) have faced an absolute top 10 “hit” show of Covid restrictions ranging from learning without teachers, wearing masks and gasping for breath and, at its worst, struggling through bereavement. AND now, the British government, in the interest of managing grade inflation, are going to crash all their grades so that those who would have achieved an A last year will be lucky to get a B – and thousands more children will “””fail”””. Our children will be labelled and defined by something that cannot measure a pig in a poke.

Tomorrow we celebrate children. We must celebrate children. And schools. And parents. They (we…) are amazing. But who in their right mind can honestly celebrate the GCSE itself? To celebrate the GCSE is to celebrate pointlessness, vacuity, right-wing ideological oppression of everything that makes life bearable, interesting and human, the persecution of children – and to, yet again, maintain an educational system that is deeply dysfunctional and dangerous. Our children deserve better.

Rather tellingly, yesterday, Tony Blair, former Prime Minister of the UK, called for the abolition of not only GCSEs but also A Levels. It is ironic given that he was responsible for blocking the Baker reforms that would have resulted in this, and countless other innovations in British education, decades ago. But better late than never. Even another year of this is too much to bear.


As we all celebrate our children today for surviving these stupid, brutal anachronisms, we need our schools to now embrace the power they have to protect and nurture our children’s future. The British Government and the system is of no help – they have all but washed their hands of any responsibility. It is schools that are today, like it or not, the gate keepers of deciding which students will be permitted to follow their dreams in their schools. It is only schools that can decide whether a child, who has a bad day in an exam, which after all measures nothing important, should be able to go on to study the A Level in history, or BTEC in Engineering, or whatever other subjects inflame the fires of their passions, hopes and dreams, that they are really passionate about. Those pieces of paper, in a fair and honest world, that places children and society first, should be deciding absolutely nothing.

In a decade we will be asking what GCSEs even were. And from tomorrow, no one will ever be asking about them ever again – why should they, they are pointless they intrinsically mean, and do, nothing. Unless (bad) school’s arbitrarily let them.

When were you ever asked about your GCSE, or O’ Level, or CSE, results?

The entertainment, games and creative industries, sporting, business and service industries decimated by Progress 8, are calling out for our young people. Our schools, in offering breadth of qualification and subject pathways, are the only ones left tomorrow, as results are announced, that can help our young people meet their potential, aspirations and capacity to make something of their lives.

The world needs all of us, with all of our many different and distinct gifts and talents. A CEO builds their board from the gaps in their, and other Director’s, knowledge. A good CEO runs a  mile from yes-sayers and any belief that any one talent is better, or less important, than another. They need different talents. It is so telling that Britain, which in so many ways still leads the world in education, falls woefully behind Germany in industry because of this fetishization of the academic over the technical, the digital, the creative – and just about everything else.

Covid 19 has actually done one, only one, good thing for education – it has shone a light on the absolute mess of a system that throws so many on the scrap heap, labelling and scarring children for life. It has allowed us all to now question the status quo – and a tidal wave of change is coming. It must now be coming.

Tomorrow, schools should be listening to their students in deciding Sixth Form study options – not reading off printed results papers from the exam boards. And, of course, the best schools – and thank goodness we have such an extraordinarily world class set of schools in the UAE, will be doing just that.

A guide to doing doughnuts in a car can be found here.

For anyone else not interested in doughnuts of the non edible variety, please join Tabitha, Johnathan, Eimear and the SchoolsCompared team as we celebrate our amazing schools and children tomorrow for GCSE Results day – just remember to put a health warning on the GCSE part.

© A WhichMedia Group publication. 2022. All rights reserved.


About The Author
Jon Westley
Jon Westley is the Editor of and UK. You can email him at jonathanwestley [at]

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