Pupils rushed into GCSE failure


The Joint Council for Qualifications has claimed that teachers are failing tens of thousands of pupils by forcing them to take GCSEs early in an attempt to boost their school’s league table position.

100,000 pupils took English and 120,000 took maths one year early, increasing the number of pupils sitting English and maths GCSEs by a third.

And while a handful of these pupils, 5 per cent, are high achievers scoring top marks, almost half score less than a C grade.

They are effectively forced to resit to get a grade that will be of use in later life. The practice undermines the confidence of tens of thousands of teens who as a result are less likely to want to study the subjects at a higher level.

The trend has been blamed on teachers trying to steal extra points in school league tables as they seek to get as many pupils over the ‘hurdle’ of achieving a C grade at maths and English as early as possible.

This allows teachers to focus their efforts on ensuring less able candidates get the C the next year. It has become widely used by teachers since 2006 when Labour introduced a league table performance measure of 5 GCSEs at A* to C, including English and maths.

Brian Lightman, general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders, said: ‘In the past, early entries were about the most able, who perhaps already had an opportunity to get an A* and perhaps moving on to AS-level. But that doesn’t seem what’s happening at the moment, it’s about getting them through the C grade.’

The trend emerged as 650,000 candidates received their GCSEs yesterday, with 69.8 per cent of pupils scoring a C or above. Nearly one in four exams, 23.3 per cent, were awarded a coveted A or A*, up from 22.6 per cent last year.

While the pass rates were a record high for the 24th consecutive year, the annual increase of 0.8 per cent was small in relation to previous years. Experts say it signals the end of grade inflation, with pass rates expected to level out as early as next year.

Figures from the JCQ show that some 46,621 15-year-olds sat an English GCSE last winter. Of these only 5.4 per cent got an A or A*, compared with the average for 16-year-olds of 16.8 per cent. Only 49.7 passed the exam with a C or more – effectively consigning the remainder to resits.

A further 51,254 15-year olds took the exam in the summer with just 9.7 per cent getting an A or A* and 53.8 per cent getting a C or above.

For maths the pattern is similar, with one fifth of teens taking the exam aged 15. Again, their grades suffer. Of the 15-year olds taking the exam last winter just 6.2 per cent got an A or A* and just 43.4 per cent got a grade C or above. This rose to 13.4 per cent getting an A or A* and 51 per cent getting a C or above in the summer.

This year the stakes were high, as all schools with fewer than 35 per cent of pupils gaining at least five C grades at GCSE, including English and maths, face being taken over as academies.