The FIFA World Cup vs GCSE revision


It is the teenage equivalent of an England v Germany penalty shoot-out: the FIFA World Cup v GCSE revision.

Research from Oxford and Bristol Universities has shown that in evenly-numbered years – when the World Cup or the Euros are on – GCSE grades dip.

This year, there is an added twist – not only does the World Cup overlap with GCSE exams, the difficulty of the GCSE exams has been ramped up.

The research, published in 2011, found “a significant negative average effect of the tournament on exam performance, substantial for some groups” – with the effect on the most affected groups, boys from disadvantaged families, being equivalent to about half a grade per subject.
And the impact could be even greater this year.

During the seven years of the study, the GCSE exams counted for about half the final marks on average, with coursework and continual assessment making up the rest.

Now, most exams have no coursework or controlled assessments, with everything resting on the exams at the end of two years.
But while the changing nature of GCSEs would seem to spell trouble for football fans, there is also some hope.

The tournaments studied in the earlier research started a week earlier, but Russia 2018 kicks off today, meaning there will be just six days of exams left after the start of the tournament – and only one England match falling during that time.

“I am sure there will still be an effect, but I can’t say whether it’s likely to be smaller or bigger than we reported,” Professor Burgess said.
Stuart Lock, executive principal of Bedford Free School, said that the key was good planning – and not multi-tasking.

"Like all interests, we have to maintain that pupils require balance," he said. "If they are watching the football, communicating with friends or doing something else, that’s fine as long as they leave time for homework and revision.

"Pupils shouldn’t try to do both at the same time. Because while they think they can multitask, we know that this is an illusion. They are context-switching and this is really inefficient. So we encourage parents and pupils to plan carefully for periods of hard work without the distractions of mobile phones, computers, television or football.

"This planning actually enables those who want to plan for, focus on and enjoy the World Cup, their theatre group, learning their musical instrument or participating in dance, to do so."

Geoff Barton, general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders, thinks the key message for teachers is to approach the topic head-on.

“It might be that students are staying up late to watch the football and that will damage their exam results. It is up to schools to manage that," he said.

“Teachers could tell students that they don’t want to look back and think they got half a grade less than they would have done because they stayed up too late.

“Whether it is football or other distractions, they have to make sure they prioritise. There are always some kids who roll their eyes and ignore you, but then suddenly think ‘this affects me’.”

And for those who do get the grades they need, they can look forward to their A levels during Euros 2020.

June 2018

Creative Teaching & Learning