The world of secondary education has been rocked since the publication of the exam results this summer, which led first to demands that papers should be re-marked and, eventually, to the announcement that the GCSE itself is to be scrapped in favour of the English Baccalaureate (EBacc).
This, of course, has left many pupils wondering how this year's marks compare to their predecessor's and, with Michael Gove labelling the current system as an example of "spoon fed" education, the value of the qualification for pupils sitting GCSEs over the next two years until the EBacc comes into being in 2015 has also, inevitably, been called into question.
In light of this, those in teaching jobs must recognise that they have a vital role to play in boosting pupils' confidence and self-belief over the coming academic year and beyond.
As a secondary teacher, how can you create that extra bit of value for your students outside the confines of the curriculum?Broadening horizons
Of course, the very nature of the school set up, with pupils confined to classrooms, makes it all too easy to adopt an insular approach.
However, the advancements in digital technology mean that you don't even need to leave the school to give your pupils a global perspective on education and life in general.
One such example of this kind of approach is the eTwinning programme. Run by the European Commission and supported in the UK by the British Council, it is designed to foster collaborative communication between educational institutions across the continent.
Sandra Underwood, who teaches modern foreign languages at Lytham St Anne's Technology and Performing Arts College in Lancashire, is just one of the teachers in the UK using it to give her students a sense of something beyond the confines of the GCSE exam.
"The impact on students has been immense - from engaging pupils with special educational needs to enthusing difficult-to-reach individuals," she told the Guardian.
"Having someone 'real' to write to meant that they scored higher [on assessments]."
However, the chance to experience something new was not just beneficial to her pupils.
"I have gained invaluable knowledge, as well as learning about various teaching methods and styles that I would not have known about had I not been part of the network," she added.A sense of community
What these kinds of collaborative projects help to do is to engender a sense of community and responsibility.
The Green Flag Eco School programme is yet another that teachers can take their children beyond GCSE and learn about the wider world.
Little Kingshill Combined Primary School is one of those taking advantage of a greener approach to learning.
As well as holding Eco Weeks, its Environment Club teaches children to value the things around them.
"It's about getting them to think about the school environment, respecting it and, ultimately, taking ownership of it," Little Kingshill primary teacher Helen McCammond told the Guardian.Conclusion
With children and parents concerned about the changes being made to the exam system, giving students experiences outside the classroom can be a fantastic way to teach them about things which are not in the text books.
Posted by Harriet McGowan