Fast track plan to let 11-year-olds take maths GCSE

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The Independent Online

Bright pupils aged nine or 10 from the inner cities will be selected by their teachers to take GCSE maths at the age of 11, the Government announced yesterday.

Bright pupils aged nine or 10 from the inner cities will be selected by their teachers to take GCSE maths at the age of 11, the Government announced yesterday.

Teachers will base their decision on national tests, classroom assessment and special "higher order" tests. Tony Blair believes that fast-tracking is a way of persuading middle-class parents to keep their children in state education but headteachers warned that "hot housing" could be harmful.

Five hundred pupils will attend 12 advanced maths centres as part of a pilot scheme run by the National Primary Trust, an education charity, which has designed the special tests. The Government is giving £30,000 to the scheme, which it hopes will lead to fast-tracking for thousands of primary school pupils. The Prime Minister said yesterday: "There is really nothing more important than that we get all our children properly grounded in the basics. We have put a lot of money into making sure we recruit more maths teachers."

Children will receive extra tuition after school, at weekends and in the holidays in the maths centres, which will be in secondary schools. They will also have some GCSE maths lessons during the normal school day. Once they have passed GCSE, they may be fast-tracked through secondary school so that they also take A-level maths early.

The first pupils for the pilot, who will take GCSE maths next year, will be selected this Easter and will attend summer schools this year. They will come from schools that form part of the Government's Ex-cellence in Cities programme in London, Birmingham, Manchester, Salford, Sheffield, Rotherham, Liverpool and Knowsley.

David Hart, the general secretary of the National Association of Head Teachers, said: "Just because a child is good at maths doesn't mean they will be mature enough at the age of nine or 10 for the intensive course. There is also the danger of losing social contact with their peer group."

Government sources emphasised that no pressure would be put on children or parents. "It is about stretching the most able children and giving them the opportunity to offer their very best."

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