GCSE Media Studies and Zoella

Monday 1 Feb 2021

Last week we made the difficult decision to remove a section looking at the vlogger and blogger Zoella (Zoe Sugg) from our GCSE Media Studies course. Since then, there have been some misunderstandings in the media and on social media about the reasons and context behind this decision.

We added Zoella to our course in 2017 as an example of online and social media. In 2017, her website was a personal blog with content that was all suitable for the children as young as 14 who take our two-year GCSE course. Since then, the Zoella website has evolved and now includes a range of articles of a sexual nature – alongside many other topics –  aimed at adults aged over 25.

A lot of the media coverage and social media reaction has wrongly suggested that our decision to remove Zoella from the course was due to one specific article – and also that GCSE students are all aged 16.

In fact, our decision was due to the whole range of adult-focused content that the website has started publishing since we added it for in-depth study in 2017. And the question isn’t whether this is suitable for 16 year-olds taking their exams, but whether it’s suitable for children who start their GCSE course at 14 – and occasionally younger.

Our belief – which is shared by many teachers and parents who have contacted us – is that it isn’t appropriate for us to ask children as young as 14 to study a website that includes sexual content aimed at adults.

None of this is a judgement on Zoe Sugg, her work, or the suitability of her material for her target audience. As she’s pointed out herself, she wasn’t aware that children were studying her work for our course and we’ve never had any kind of relationship with her.

Effective relationships and sex education in schools is vitally important and we completely support it. All we’re saying is that we don’t think studying adult-focused lifestyle websites in GCSE Media Studies is the best way to do it.

We respect the right of anyone to disagree with our decision, but we believe that it’s the right one.