General Studies

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In the sixth form (years 12 & 13 in new money) that I went to there was a general studies [GS] programme with an exam at the end.  This was run by the Northern Universities Joint Matriculation Board (JMB) – now long subsumed within AQA.  I got a middle of the road pass.  In truth I cannot recall – some 60 years on – very much about it, but do remember an art & design teacher arguing that the most important part of a chisel was its handle.  I thought that this was obvious nonsense at the time, but now (with experience of chisels) recognise the fundamental truth of the statement.

I can't remember doing much about current affairs in the programme or exploring the great issues of the day: Profumo, the Cuban missile crisis, the first Labour government (promising the white heat of technology) for 13 years, satire, mods and rockers, Jackie, Top of the Pops, the great train robbery, Radio Caroline, Seven up!, TWTWTW, A Hard day's Night, death penalty abolished, the Krays arrested, Pennine Way opens, etc, etc ... .  In trust, apart from that chisel, I can't recall much about it at all, except that it provided a rare space in which those studying science like me met up with those focused on humanities in what was a very segregated year group.

What I do know is that if I now taught in a school or college that catered for 16 to 19 year olds, I'd (re)introduce GS but without the carrot or stick of an exam.  I'd use it as a vehicle for exploring the issues of the day that mattered to students.




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