End 'GCSE videogame leave' says minister

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The Independent Online

The Government will call on secondary schools tomorrow to abandon the practice of allowing pupils study leave before GCSE exams.

The Government will call on secondary schools tomorrow to abandon the practice of allowing pupils study leave before GCSE exams.

David Miliband, the schools minister, will tell an education conference in London that the practice is in danger of becoming known as "videogame leave" and that it does little to improve the results of youngsters.

His call follows an experiment in 25 schools this summer in which blanket study leave was replaced by alternative revision arrangements.

The number of pupils gaining five grade A* to C GCSE passes rose by an average of 9 per cent - compared with 0.5 per cent nationally.

Mr Miliband wants schools to offer master classes for the brightest pupils and catch-up sessions for those who are struggling. A spokesman for the Department for Education and Skills said: "He will be writing to all schools asking them to end blanket study leave.

"We're not saying that it doesn't benefit anyone but that we believe it should be a privilege earned rather than something for all students."

Many schools currently allow all pupils home leave for the two weeks before the examination period.

Mr Miliband will tell the conference, organised by the Donald Chesworth Educational Trust: "Study leave must not become 'videogame leave' - at this crucial time in a young person's life it is more important that they achieve the highest GCSE grade they can, not the highest score on a games console."

This year's GCSE results showed that ministers had missed their target of improving the percentage getting top-grade passes by 2 per cent every year.

This year's pilot project was pioneered by John Atkins, the head of Kemnal Technology College, a specialist secondary school in Bromley, Kent. Mr Atkins ended study leave four years ago and saw GCSE performance rise from 35 per cent of pupils getting five top-grade passes to 56 per cent in a year. The results rose again the following year.

The school replaced study leave with a mixture of catch-up and master classes plus revision workshops before and after school and during the Easter holidays.

Mr Miliband is also backing an "e-mentoring" scheme to be trialled next summer by the Specialist Schools Trust, by which schools will use computer technology to support students and answer queries online. "It's making revision help available 24/7," said the DfES spokesman.

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