With the introduction of the changes to GCSEs in 2015 and 2016, parents often ask us how we do things here at NGHS. GCSEs are now broader, more challenging, and graded differently than they have been in the past, and with the options available for schools to offer iGCSEs or GCSEs, it’s an interesting topic to discuss.

At NGHS we are driven by research and a deep understanding of educational needs. Our expertise enables us to provide the optimal curriculum for our students. We know that good quality GCSE grades are important, and that the robust and challenging curriculum offered by the new GCSEs sets our girls up for increased confidence and success in their A levels, and therefore university.

Broad and deep learning
We believe in the challenge and stretch provided by GCSEs. For example, the Maths curriculum is a quarter larger in terms of its content than previously. GCSEs ensure an advanced level of deep learning and require a robust understanding of the subject in order to achieve their high standards.

GCSEs often take elements of the A level curriculum, therefore ensuring that a high standard is met throughout the exam years. This results in a more seamless transition to A level success in terms of subject matter, learning techniques, standards and therefore confidence and mental wellbeing throughout this period. A level results are often the priority for our girls as they are one of the key elements for university offers. By succeeding in GCSEs, they are better prepared for their A levels for the following two years.

Relevance to university offers
Offers of university places are based on a range of important factors. When GCSEs are taken into consideration, it is the quality of GCSE results that is assessed, not the quantity. For example, top medical schools often look at the eight best grades of a candidate in order to offer a place.

Universities also look for evidence of leadership skills and individual initiative. This is where extra-curricular activities come into play, such as Duke of Edinburgh, music and performing arts skills. Here at NGHS, we focus on academic success and holistic education to build girls’ confidence and life skills, and we believe that offering nine challenging GCSEs helps us to achieve this.

Mental wellbeing
Studying nine GCSEs is stimulating and challenging. A robust, broad and thorough curriculum for all GCSE subjects means that students enjoy deep learning and a high level of challenge. At NGHS we offer a wider range of GCSE options, including Classics, Performing Arts and Music, as well as the core subjects you would expect including the Sciences, Maths, Languages and English. Completing more GCSEs is not necessary for university, and could place undue stress on students. We prefer to encourage our girls to work thoroughly on each of their subjects, rather than spreading their efforts more thinly.

Girls achieve excellent academic results here at NGHS. This year, we had 22% of our girls achieve the elusive grade 9 in their GCSEs, and 44% achieved grades 9 – 8 which is the equivalent of them achieving A*s under the old system. Girls in Science is a hot topic at the moment, and we’re proud of our no-stereotypes approach and were delighted to congratulate 24 girls who achieved grade 9s in all three Sciences.

Girls at NGHS also participate in a huge range of extracurricular activities. We know that participation in sports, expeditions, leadership roles and creative arts are crucial in bringing confidence, resilience, creative thinking and team working skills. These are critical life skills, as well as important factors in gaining university offers.

We hope this helps to demystify the new GCSEs. Remember, our door is always open, so please do pop in for a chat if you would like to discuss your questions and views on subjects such as this.