Schools ask pupils to sit GCSE maths exams twice to boost league table scores, warns Ofqual

 

Thousands of teenagers are being put in for multiple GCSE maths exams in the hope they will get crucial C grade passes in at least one of them.

The practice is exposed by the exams regulator Ofqual today as it reveals that 15 per cent of candidates sitting GCSEs  – around 90,000 candidates – were last year submitted for maths exams with more than one board. Ofqual officials believe there will be a repeat this year because the pressures that drove schools to do it  – including boosting performances in league tables – are still there.

Glenys Stacey, Ofqual’s chief executive, said there was a “fine balance” as to whether the practice was in the best interests of the pupil or was instead “demotivating them by putting them through a number of assessments”. “Time could be better spent preparing them for one assessment,” she added. This would allow them to move on to other subjects.

The practice, which has come to light for the first time this year, is one of two methods being used by schools to try to ensure C grade passes in English and maths – crucial for determining a school’s ranking in exam league tables. In addition, they are putting growing numbers of candidates in for exams a year early – at 15 or 16 – so they can bank a C grade pass in English or maths and then drop them to concentrate on their weaker subjects the following year, with the insurance that, if they don’t do well, they get a second chance 12 months on. This year saw 23 per cent of the maths cohort sitting maths a year early compared to 18 per cent last year. In English literature and language, the figures rose from 7 and 8 per cent respectively to 11 per cent and 10 per cent. Dennis Opposs, of Ofqual, described the figures as “quite a huge increase in [early] entry”.

But the practice may in fact lower the percentage of top A* , A or B grade passes for pupils. “A year’s more maturity in maths is a significant thing,” said Mrs Stacey. However, she warned that some candidates may be taking an exam early “just to get it out of the way”, in some cases leading 15-year-olds who achieve a C grade pass to accept it and not find out whether the extra year would have improved their grade. She added pupils registered with two boards often drop the one with which they are having difficulty. 

Ministers frown on the practice and last month sent a memorandum to the Commons Select Committee on Education saying they would ask Ofsted, the education standards watchdog, to look at the “inappropriate use” of multiple exam entries. The Education Secretary Michael Gove is also planning changes to league tables so that they no longer focus so much on the percentage of pupils getting five A* to C grade passes including maths and English.

Christine Blower, the general secretary of the National Union of Teachers, said: “When accusations fly that schools are somehow gaming the system, it is often the case a blind eye is turned to the malign influence of Ofsted benchmarks and ever-changing targets.”

She added: “Children, for whom teachers always want to do their best, develop at different rates. It is right, therefore, that teachers use their professional judgement to decide on early entry.”

Meanwhile Ofqual predicted “a small drop in achievement” in science as a result of the papers becoming harder to pass. On A-levels, Ofqual is expecting a rise in the take-up of subjects singled out by the Russell group of universities as “facilitators” that help pupils gain access to their universities. They include English, maths, history, geography and the sciences.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
News
peoplePair enliven the Emirates bore-draw
Arts and Entertainment
tvPoldark episode 8, review
News
Britain's opposition Labour Party leader Ed Miliband (R) and Boris Johnson, mayor of London, talk on the Andrew Marr show in London April 26
General electionAndrew Marr forced to intervene as Boris and Miliband clash on TV
News
news
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
  • Get to the point
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

Ashdown Group: Systems Engineer - Windows, Linux - Central London

£40000 - £48000 per annum + Benefits: Ashdown Group: Systems Engineer - Windo...

Guru Careers: Product Training Specialist / Software Trainer

£25 - 32,500K (DOE) + Excellent Benefits: Guru Careers: We are seeking a Produ...

Recruitment Genius: Unqualified NVQ Assessors - Health, Social Care & Management

£16000 - £22000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This award winning independent ...

Recruitment Genius: Telesales Advisor - OTE £30,000

£15000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a fantastic opportunity...

Day In a Page

General Election 2015: Chuka Umunna on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband

Chuka Umunna: A virus of racism runs through Ukip

The shadow business secretary on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband
Yemen crisis: This exotic war will soon become Europe's problem

Yemen's exotic war will soon affect Europe

Terrorism and boatloads of desperate migrants will be the outcome of the Saudi air campaign, says Patrick Cockburn
Marginal Streets project aims to document voters in the run-up to the General Election

Marginal Streets project documents voters

Independent photographers Joseph Fox and Orlando Gili are uploading two portraits of constituents to their website for each day of the campaign
Game of Thrones: Visit the real-life kingdom of Westeros to see where violent history ends and telly tourism begins

The real-life kingdom of Westeros

Is there something a little uncomfortable about Game of Thrones shooting in Northern Ireland?
How to survive a social-media mauling, by the tough women of Twitter

How to survive a Twitter mauling

Mary Beard, Caroline Criado-Perez, Louise Mensch, Bunny La Roche and Courtney Barrasford reveal how to trounce the trolls
Gallipoli centenary: At dawn, the young remember the young who perished in one of the First World War's bloodiest battles

At dawn, the young remember the young

A century ago, soldiers of the Empire – many no more than boys – spilt on to Gallipoli’s beaches. On this 100th Anzac Day, there are personal, poetic tributes to their sacrifice
Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves

Follow the money as never before

Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves, reports Rupert Cornwell
Samuel West interview: The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents

Samuel West interview

The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents
General Election 2015: Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Fashion editor, Alexander Fury, on what the leaders' appearances tell us about them
Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

The architect of the HeForShe movement and head of UN Women on the world's failure to combat domestic violence
Public relations as 'art'? Surely not

Confessions of a former PR man

The 'art' of public relations is being celebrated by the V&A museum, triggering some happy memories for DJ Taylor
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef succumbs to his sugar cravings with super-luxurious sweet treats

Bill Granger's luxurious sweet treats

Our chef loves to stop for 30 minutes to catch up on the day's gossip, while nibbling on something sweet
London Marathon 2015: Paula Radcliffe and the mother of all goodbyes

The mother of all goodbyes

Paula Radcliffe's farewell to the London Marathon will be a family affair
Everton vs Manchester United: Steven Naismith demands 'better' if Toffees are to upset the odds against United

Steven Naismith: 'We know we must do better'

The Everton forward explains the reasons behind club's decline this season
Arsenal vs Chelsea: Praise to Arsene Wenger for having the courage of his convictions

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Praise to Wenger for having the courage of his convictions