In preparation for an upcoming book I have spent a little bit of time collating some data. My personal feelings are that we put young people through too many formal assessments at age 16. I've gone through the three biggest exam boards in the UK (AQA, OCR and Edexcel) and looked at what an averagely bright student might have to sit. This is making some assumptions:

  1. They sit all exams with a single exam board (with the exception of OCR who no longer offer MFL GCSEs).
  2. They take a minimal amount of subjects. Some (many?) schools have their students sit more than the minimum - particularly as English Literature often leads to poorer grades than language, so will be included to double-up the English grade in Progress 8, but a different subject included for the actual grade needed.

Some times were rounded slightly.

What does this mean in real world terms? Secondary age children spend 190 days in school each year. With an average of 5 hours a day of lessons, this is 950 hours a year, or 1,900 across two years. Very roughly ten weeks of this is lost in Year 11 so that's 250 hours gone, leaving children with 1,650 hours of key stage 4 education.

What about Physical education? Religious education (still mandatory within the UK)? If we were to give these one hour a week each (and it could be argued that one hour a week of PE isn't enough to get them changed never mind actually exercising), then that's an extra 152 hours we need - taking us down to 1498 hours. Any teacher will tell you that they lose probably 5-8 minutes of each lesson due to change over, getting equipment out, etc etc. So if we assume hour lessons we're taking 13% off of each one, 1,298 hours left.

Many schools will assess at the end of each term, and at least approximating the real assessments, so that's five sets of mocks/assessments at 31 hours each (again, if we're using worst cases here), 155 hours. 1,143 hours left.

If we look at the worst case scenario of Edexcel having 31 hours of examinations, this leaves us with 143 hours per subject, or less than 37 hours of teaching for each hour of assessment.

What's the old maxim? It takes 1,000 hours to master something?