Why I use folders for GCSE


I’ve had some discussions online about this so I thought I’d share my rationale and systems.

Since my first ever option group of GCSE I have used lever arch folders with students. At the time, the whole cohort did short course so I felt it made the full course students have something different for the full course aspect. I have continued to use level arch folders for option groups ever since.

3 groups worth of folders (some have taken theirs over the holidays)

Why I use folders

  • I think GCSE should be a preparation for further study. At key stage 5 most providers do not give students exercise books. Students are suddenly expected to use folders and a4 paperwork without having been taught how to do it. Using them at KS4 helps them to learn how to organise.
  • It stops wasting time gluing things in to books
  • Work can be organised by course structure rather than by a linear time model. I think this is better for revision and reference.
  • Work can be thrown away without having to tear things out or have unsightly crossings out (drafting is different)
  • Paperwork such as exams, worksheets, course outlines are easily available and can be referenced quickly in lessons.
  • It gives students a sense of ownership. It’s their folder. Many are very proud of it in a different way from when they had books.
  • They can use a book or A4 paper for notes. This year I’m going to buy a refill pad each. This prevents time wasted giving out paper every lesson. Those that choose to use a book can have a folder at the back (see below). Interestingly most that initially opted for a book ditched it after a while.


  • All marked work is on paper so I have a small pile to mark rather than a large pile of books or folders. It’s a psychological benefit.
  • It saves time. Before the lesson starts they all go to the cupboard and get their folders. I don’t have to tell them to. They take turns on their table.
  • In student surveys and classroom visits, they have reported that they like them and are proud of them.
  • Life lessons. I’m teaching them how to organise paperwork in a logical, easily accessible manner. One day it might help them with their own paperwork.

Possible issues

  • Any external person who wants to turn page after page to see ‘progress‘ won’t have an easy job. (I don’t care, their work is about them, not showing progress to someone else)
  • Taking them home. They’re big and bulky. I generally don’t recommend them taking the whole file.
  • Storage. You need some decent space for them (see above).
  • Hole punching – they need several lessons on how to do this. They have no idea how to use them properly. Life lessons.
  • The new GCSE is going to be a challenge. We’ll go to two folders. One religions and one themes.


  • Use of dividers and polypockets helps with organisation
  • I do folder checks every half term-ish. This isn’t marking but checking on organisation and note making. I compete a very simple sheet at the front. The next lesson they all do their improvements.
  • I also track self reflections on these (see below) which makes it easy when report writing.
  • You have to teach students how to use them. They won’t have a natural ability to do it. Step by step. “These are called dividers. They separate your work. You write the title of the topic on the tab. You file the work BEHIND the tab”. I’ve seen folders fail. Why? Because the teacher hasn’t taught the students how to use them.



2 thoughts on “Why I use folders for GCSE

  1. Pingback: Rewards? Learning is the reward. | missdcoxblog

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