'Bright children lose out' by taking GCSEs early

Schools are failing bright children by putting them in for exams too early, Sir Michael Wilshaw, the chief schools inspector, warns today.

Thousands fail to get top grades in their English and maths GCSEs because they are taking them a year early. As a result, they are likely to miss out on studying the subjects for A-level or at university.

Figures produced by Ofsted, the education standards watchdog, show the number of pupils being put in for maths and English GCSEs a year early has shot up over the past 10 years.

Between 2005 and 2012 the number of students put forward for early GCSEs in these subjects has risen from 9,000 to 241,000 in English and from 24,000 to 218,000 in maths.

The figures also show that, of the brightest pupils identified by national curriculum tests at age 11, only 37 per get an A* or A grade pass in English if they take the exam early. That compares with the 49 per cent who get top grades when they take the exam at 16. In maths, the figures are 43 per cent and 54 per cent respectively. Sir Michael, who is also head of Ofsted, said the figures revealed "the perverse incentive of the league tables".

"All heads are anxious about their position in terms of five A* to C grade passes including maths and English," he said. "In some ways this is a perverse incentive: making sure your five A* to Cs are as good as last year and are beating the school down the road."

As a result, schools are "banking" their most talented pupils' C grades a year early and then concentrating in the final year of GCSE preparation in pushing them through to C grades in other subjects. This approach could lead to them receiving no English or maths teaching in school after the age of 15, Sir Michael added.

Sir Michael also blamed "the curse of mixed ability classes without mixed ability teaching" for failing pupils. He said it was hard to cope with a disadvantaged pupil with poor skills sitting next to a "potential Oxbridge graduate" in the same class.

About 20 per cent of those in the top level at age 11 failed to get the A*, A and B grade passes their talent warranted, he said. "It is a combination of low expectations about what these youngsters can achieve and the curse of mixed ability classes without mixed ability teaching," he said.

"Heads have got to make up their minds. If they want mixed ability they've got to ensure there is good teaching. It must not be just an article of faith – comprehensive means mixed ability." Sir Michael said 6,000 schools teaching two million children needed to improve from their current ranking of satisfactory – now abolished under new inspection procedures – to good within four years.

"About a third of our schools are less than good," he added.

A spokesman for the Department for Education said: "Candidates entered early often perform worse overall than those who do not, even after re-sits are taken into account.

"Some pupils are being entered before they are ready and 'banking' a C grade but their performance at Key Stage Two [seven to 11] suggests that if they had continued to study the subject and taken the GCSE at the end of Year 11 [at 16] they could have achieved a top grade."

Science grade boundaries also changed

Grade boundaries in science were changed at the last moment at AQA (Assessment and Qualifications Alliance), it emerged yesterday. The pass marks for A*, A, B and C grades in chemistry and biology were lowered between the January and June sittings. Less than 1 per cent of biology candidates achieved an A* grade in January compared with more than 10 per cent in June. In chemistry the respective figures were two and 12 per cent. However, the lowering of the C grade in biology led to fewer candidates achieving it.

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksNow available in paperback
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Education

Austen Lloyd: Employment Solicitor

£30000 - £60000 per annum + Excellent: Austen Lloyd: Employment Solicitor - Ke...

Ashdown Group: HR Generalist - 2 week contract - £200pd - Immediate start

£200 per day: Ashdown Group: Working within a business that has a high number ...

Randstad Education Cardiff: Maths Teacher

£100 - £120 per day: Randstad Education Cardiff: We are currently recruiting f...

Randstad Education Cardiff: Science Teacher

£100 - £120 per day: Randstad Education Cardiff: Science Teacher -Full Time - ...

Day In a Page

Homeless Veterans Christmas Appeal: Drifting and forgotten - turning lives around for ex-soldiers

Homeless Veterans Christmas Appeal: Turning lives around for ex-soldiers

Our partner charities help veterans on the brink – and get them back on their feet
Putin’s far-right ambition: Think-tank reveals how Russian President is wooing – and funding – populist parties across Europe to gain influence in the EU

Putin’s far-right ambition

Think-tank reveals how Russian President is wooing – and funding – populist parties across Europe to gain influence in the EU
Tove Jansson's Moominland: What was the inspiration for Finland's most famous family?

Escape to Moominland

What was the inspiration for Finland's most famous family?
Nightclubbing with Richard Young: The story behind his latest book of celebrity photographs

24-Hour party person

Photographer Richard Young has been snapping celebrities at play for 40 years. As his latest book is released, he reveals that it wasn’t all fun and games
Michelle Obama's school dinners: America’s children have a message for the First Lady

A taste for rebellion

US children have started an online protest against Michelle Obama’s drive for healthy school meals by posting photos of their lunches
Colouring books for adults: How the French are going crazy for Crayolas

Colouring books for adults

How the French are going crazy for Crayolas
Jack Thorne's play 'Hope': What would you do as a local politician faced with an impossible choice of cuts?

What would you do as a local politician faced with an impossible choice of cuts?

Playwright Jack Thorne's latest work 'Hope' poses the question to audiences
Ed Harcourt on Romeo Beckham and life as a court composer at Burberry

Call me Ed Mozart

Paloma Faith, Lana del Ray... Romeo Beckham. Ed Harcourt has proved that he can write for them all. But it took a personal crisis to turn him from indie star to writer-for-hire
10 best stocking fillers for foodies

Festive treats: 10 best stocking fillers for foodies

From boozy milk to wasabi, give the food-lover in your life some extra-special, unusual treats to wake up to on Christmas morning
Phil Hughes head injury: He had one weakness – it has come back to haunt him

Phil Hughes had one weakness – it has come back to haunt him

Prolific opener had world at his feet until Harmison and Flintoff bounced him
'I have an age of attraction that starts as low as four': How do you deal with a paedophile who has never committed a crime?

'I am a paedophile'

Is our approach to sex offenders helping to create more victims?
How bad do you have to be to lose a Home Office contract?

How bad do you have to be to lose a Home Office contract?

Serco given Yarl’s Wood immigration contract despite ‘vast failings’
Green Party on the march in Bristol: From a lost deposit to victory

From a lost deposit to victory

Green Party on the march in Bristol
Putting the grot right into Santa's grotto

Winter blunderlands

Putting the grot into grotto
'It just came to us, why not do it naked?' London's first nude free runner captured in breathtaking images across capital

'It just came to us, why not do it naked?'

London's first nude free runner captured in breathtaking images across capital