Does early entry for GCSE exams, disadvantage able students?

There is increasing concern over the policies some schools have in place regarding early entry for GCSE Maths exams. It is standard policy in some cases for schools to enter pupils to sit their final GCSE Maths exam at the end of year 10 rather than year 11 – a year earlier than is necessary.

Some students are being disadvantaged. If a student achieved a ‘B’ grade (only 2 marks off an ‘A’) when they had to sit the exam in year 10, they could actually be an A* student by the end of year 11. If they had been given the opportunity to improve their skills for a further year (as is the case in some schools) then they would have been able to reach their full potential. Almost certainly, such students would gain higher grades which would be of more benefit to them than an additional, alternative year 11 maths qualifications.

Whilst some schools do allow students to continue with their GCSE Maths into year 11 and/or re-sit to achieve a higher grade if possible, some schools hold the view that once a grade ‘C’ is achieved re-sits are only available if parents pay for further exams. Others do not allow students to try and improve their grades at all but offer alternative qualifications eg. GCSE Statistics. This seems to be completely unfair on the students, who are willing to work hard in order to better themselves and achieve a higher grade. If students can’t re-sit the exam if they achieved a grade C, then it begs the question, who are the exams actually for and who are the exams benefitting? It seems that schools are being forced into focusing too much on the league tables, judged on Grades A*-C and their position on them, rather than helping the pupils to achieve their potential.

It is important to remember that this is not the case in all schools, some do still deliver a two year GCSE course, although in our experience, there seems to be an increasing move towards early entry. Shouldn’t all schools have the same policy regarding exam entries, so that across the country pupils have all had the same chance to achieve the best GCSE grades possible? Without a doubt the GCSE Maths qualification is very important for pupils to achieve no matter what they wish to do in the future. However, for those who wish to continue studying in further/higher education it could be argued to be even more so, as their grade can affect the options available to them.

This is yet another lottery facing our young people, maybe schools should publish their policy regarding GCSE entry in order that potential pupils and their parents are able to consider this when making their school choices.

Are you a school with an early entry policy or a parent / pupil affected by such a policy ? Let us know what you think

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