Are GCSE Syllabus Changes Needed Before The Next Pandemic?

ivan-aleksic-PDRFeeDniCk-unsplash (1)
While classrooms are empty should the curriculum be rewritten to equip children better for pandemics in the future?

GCSEs are the standard qualification usually taken at 16 by UK students, historically the age at which you could leave school. Often there are two levels of exam available – Higher and Foundation Level, with higher achieving students on the Higher track I volunteer in a school with GCSE maths students on the Foundation level.

A lot of the information from the press and government press briefings and datasets is conflicting or very detailed/scientific and in the future we may want to consider if changes to core educational syllabuses should be made to raise the level of public health information, give kids the skills to evaluate the information and also practical skills that could have solved problems of education going remote or online. Also pandemics are interesting and now relevant, so perhaps we might want to dial down the ubiquitous Tudors, Romeo and Juliet or Alkali Flame Tests.

Many developing countries especially in Africa have a strong history of educating kids to be their community health ambassadors so perhaps we should look to their success in managing Ebola and HIV with extremely limited resources via Public Health Education?

So some ideas for the exam boards! Feel free to suggest those I’ve missed! (Some of these may well be on some syllabuses but perhaps bump their importance. I’ve tried to include a footnote with a reference for those homeschooling at the moment to explore further


  • Using a Veikk tablet – a useful tool for two way live lessons[1]
  • Graphics – design a clear public information poster[2]

Business Studies:

  • Which businesses do well and which badly in a global pandemic, and why?[3]
  • PAYE, Self-employment, Limited Companies, Zero-hour contracts – compare[4]


    • Long term national debt[5]
    • NICE / public policy – the value of a life – are the old more valuable than the young[6]
    • Economic impacts of Lockdowns[7]
    • Changes in retail patterns and technology caused by a pandemic
    • Who is an essential worker in a pandemic?[42] [43]
    •  Furloughing and the concept of Universal Basic Income



  • How face masks work – types of mask, respirator, surgical, cloth.[8]
  • Why soap kills viruses, why anti-bac spray doesn’t[9]
  • Static Electricity and non-woven Polypropylene – why used in N95 masks[10]
  • Clinical / Drug trials – How are they performed[11]
  • Medical Tests – False negatives and False positives[12]
  • Sanitising techniques: UV, Gamma, Washing at various temperatures, hydrogen peroxide, IPA/alcohol, hand sanitser[13]


  • How to set up a raspberry pi/microbit with a keyboard/mouse and use a browser on it[14]
  • Make an online tutorial / presentation[15]

Critical Thinking

  • Fake news and fact checking websites (Snopes, Channel 4 etc)[16]
  • Compare the views of Teaching Unions[17], Medical Professional Bodies[18], Government[19] and Children’s Commissioner[20] in the decision to reopen schools


  • Using a word processor e.g. google docs[21]
  •  Albert Camus- La Peste 


  • Toilet Roll Manufacture in the UK[22]
  • Pollution / Lockdown[23]
  • Chinese/other Imports – how long do imports take, what do we import


  • Plagues / Pandemics[24]
  • Primary Source course work on the daily COVID-19 press briefings and data sets

Home Economics / Food Technology

  • Flour production, packaging and supply chains[25]
  • Banana bread[26]
  • Design a menu for two weeks based only on long life products / government food box[27]
  • BAME people – health and vitamin D deficiency[28]


  • Exponential graphs[29]
  • Graphs with Logarithmic Scales[30]


  • Online choir practice[31]


  • History and Role of the WHO[32]


  • The effects of isolation
  • Judging your neighbours[33]


  • Why BAME people are more vulnerable to COVID-19[34]


  • How to make a cloth mask[35]
  • CE Standards in masks FFP3/FFP2/surgical masks differences[36]
  • The effects of sanitising techniques on fabrics[37]
  • Commercial mask materials and construction[38]

Religious Education

  • Religion’s role in social good e.g. disease control (monastic plague hospitals etc) [39]
  • Religious worship/practices conflicting with modern public health advice[40]

Physical Education

  • Keeping fit in an apartment[41]

Looking for more ideas for topics to supplement current curriculae? Chatterpack have an #edutwitter sources list of resources of educational materials for the COVID-19 situation covering 1) older self-isolators 2) Special needs educators 3) Schools and parents homeschooling; these lists have links to numerous online education resources including recorded videos.

Image courtesy of Ivan Aleksic via Unsplash.






[6] Radio 4: How can you put a price on a human life? Anita Anand meets the people whose job it is to make such calculations and asks if their decisions are fair and morally justifiable.


















[24] The Black Death in Medieval England by Prof. Mark Bailey

















[41] PE with Joe



Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

Blog at

Up ↑

%d bloggers like this: