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The fall-out from this year’s GCSE results is underway with accusations and counter-accusations over changing standards and multiple entries. Anecdotal evidence that schools were entering candidates in duplicate exams seems to have been backed up by the statistic that in the last year 1.3m maths exams were taken by 888,000 candidates, implying that some 400,000 exams were sat by candidates who doubled-up.
This year in particular commentators are noticing the trend of entering candidates into exams early either in the hope of “banking” a C grade or alternatively providing candidates with a second chance to pass the following year. Speaking about the practice the chief executive of the OCR examination board said “Early entry does not benefit students. These qualifications are designed for 16-year-olds, and there’s a 10% difference in the pass rate. That’s not good for the students.”
Of course there are exceptions to every rule and schools with able candidates may be failing in their duties if they didn’t enter candidates when they were ready, with the view to providing them with more stretching learning in future years. Maths is a good example of this, with many able candidates taking the basic GCSE a year early with a view to sitting additional mathematics the following year. For example a friend’s son has just sat and gained an A* in his GCSE maths at aged 13 and regards the GCSE as a minor stepping stone on the way to further maths at A’level and beyond.
But in general the accusation being bandied around is that schools are entering candidates to meet quotas or to avoid Ofstead inspections rather than with the interests of the individuals in mind. What effect this may have on building a generation of confident individuals who are able to fully engage in their chosen careers remains to be seen.