Friday, 26 August 2011
Early GCSEs are no scam
Today's Telegraph and Mail have found a new target in their relentless battle against the achievements of our schools and young people: the early GCSE. They tell us (with some encouragement from the exam boards, it would seem) that the main reason schools enter their students for exams early is to 'play' the league tables. This is not the case. The practice was actively encouraged for bright students, so that some they might be stretched, just as a growing number of schools have students taking AS levels a year early too. One of the most inspiring classes I ever visited was a 15-strong AS Maths class of 15 year-olds in North Liverpool Academy, a place I should imagine is entirely alien to those who try to concoct new ways to do down students each year. These were young people from some of the most disadvantaged communities in the country. Schools were actively encouraged to do this as part of Labour's 'gifted and talented' drive. Another reason why schools do some GCSEs early is to encourage young people to do a wider range of exams, and to show them that they can achieve. Others do use it is a practice run. Yes, some schools will bank the GCSEs early, but their motive is not just about the tables, it is as much about widening the achievement of their students and stretching them. But that is perhaps too noble an explanation for the shrill voices of the Tory press.