Early Entry GCSE Maths and Pass Rates


Schools used to pick the brightest pupils in the year and allow them to take their GCSE maths exam early. This was called early entry and the pass rate was very good. These students could then take on an additional maths GCSE like statistics. Nowadays, the majority of pupils are sitting early entry GCSE maths whether they have a good chance of passing or not.

This article by the BBC and this paper by the department for education summarise the consequences of this practice. But I want to tell you my story….

Last week, all the students who sat their GCSE Maths in November 2010, got their results. Last week, I had many calls from panicking parents whose year 11’s failed to get that grade C. These now have to re-take their exam in March or in May this year. They will have to revise everything again but this time they will have other subjects to revise as well so the pressure will be much greater.

Having assessed these students, I’ve come to 2 conclusions:

  1. that they should never have been entered for the exam in November in the first place. I assessed a student who got a “U” (ungraded) in the higher paper suggesting that at best he was a low “D” grade at the time of the exam and that he could have done worse because of exam day nerves. The grades possible in the higher paper are “A*” to “D”. If a student gets lower than the pass mark for a “D” then they fail.

  2. that the students have already forgotten some of the maths they studied for the exam. In the majority of cases, the students who told me they got a “D” in the exam for example, got an “E” in my assessment. The student who got a “C” in the exam got a “D” in my assessment.

These students are cramming for exams and are being taught to pass exams and not to learn skills which can be applied to real life or in further education. A good friend of mine who teaches A level Maths at College says that the students who pass the early entry exam, struggle with A level Maths because they have forgotten everything they learnt by the time they start college. He has to spend the first 2 weeks of the A level course going through basic maths skills to make sure that the children are able to cope with A level standard work. I teach A level Chemistry which needs a good foundation in maths. I find that I have to teach skills like being able to work out ratios, re-arranging an algebraic formula and using a calculator. And the same goes for english skills, like comprehension and being able to answer a question so that it makes sense.

It’s an old argument and one that will always exist as long as exams exist. Students take pride in getting their GCSE’s early and they pride themselves in getting more GCSE’s. Schools have a reputation to keep, and league to tables to worry about. Many teachers view pass rates as a reflection of their own teaching. We all have our own agenda. I just wish that parents didn’t have to get dragged into all this!

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4 comments on “Early Entry GCSE Maths and Pass Rates

  1. My son has just received his november maths exam results, we went to the school and both my son and myself were totally floored, he got an F, he expected a B or C, this is because his reports said he was on target to gain them, I confronted the school, my son has ADHD and has difficulty with retaining information, I found out that the school did not even have him on the Senco register, nor did they have any data about my sons learning difficulty, they said his file had gone missing, this was 4 weeks ago and still they have not found his file. When he started the school he was means tested and was told he would received extra help, what a joke, I am now paying for 2 hours extra private tuition a week at a costing of 46 pounds, I am also giving my son home tuition by books and the internet, I feel so angry that I am having to pay and support my sons education because the school couldnt do the job that they get paid for. He is doing the foundations tier in march and then doing the other exam in june, God help us because we are trying to do 2 or 3 years revision in 3 months, aswell as all the other exams he has to sit.

  2. Pingback: Fast Track to Success – Kip McGrath Luton Summer School 2012 | Leaderinlearning's Blog

  3. This ofsted report is the typical self-serving nonsense which one is accostumed to get from this bunch of mediocre civil servants who wish to avoid parents independent assessment of the education establishment’s service provided to their children. I strongly advise all parents to at least attempt to fast track their children with early entry of maths gsce’s so you can assess if you are being lied to and deceived by your child’s school.

  4. Pingback: Fast Track To Success – Kip McGrath Summer School 2013 | Kip McGrath Luton Tutor's Blog

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