Early entry

Roger Titcombe's picture
This year's GCSE results have generated a debate about early entry.

I anticipated this development in my 2011 paper that forms a chapter in my (so far unpublished) book.

Titcombe R, A Case Study in School Improvement, Forum, Vol 53, No 3, 2011

On page 439 I write as follows.

"This (change to vocational equivalents from 2014) is likely to result in schools changing their curriculum from easy vocational subjects to prioritising the C grade performance in their chosen Ebacc qualifying subjects."

"It appears that many schools are already anticipating this by bringing KS4 forward to Year 9, requiring pupils to make option subject choices at age 13 instead of 14 and losing the opportunity for cognitive consolidation in Year 9 through a policy of early GCSE entry in Years 9 and 10. Year 11 may mainly be used for mopping up residual essential C grades. Such a strategy would encourage cramming in all three years. These developments have been made possible by the abolition of statutory KS3 testing. It remains to be seen whether such changes will be educationally beneficial or whether they will just represent another chapter in the ever-changing saga of manipulating the curriculum in order to succeed in the league tables and jump the next ‘tough’ performance target to be imposed upon schools by the Government."

Most of the media discussion has so far been about Y10 entries especially in English and maths. I also predicted a trend towards the commencement of KS4 in Y9 with some entries at the end of that year. This provides for multiple attempts at getting the vital league table driving C grades by the end of Y11, not including further multiple entries of the same subject with different boards, all at considerable cost to the taxpayer. The result is bound to be not only a reduction in the C grade pass rate, but similar or even greater reductions in the numbers of students achieving higher grades. This appears to be what is happening.

According to BBC News, '(JQC) says the early entries are a "damaging trend", not in the best interests of pupils and driven by the accountability system, where schools are measured on how many pupils get at least a C grade in English and maths.'

There are serious implications for progression to A Level studies.

According to their latest prospectus, the Mossbourne Academy Sixth Form entry requirements are as follows.

'Students will require seven A*– C grades at GCSE, including English and Maths. In addition, a minimum of four B grades will be required and these should be relevant to their AS Level subjects. Some more demanding courses may require As or A*s in relevant GCSEs'

It seems likely that the subjects requiring A/A* will include maths and sciences with disastrous consequences for eventual university progression in these subjects.

I continue to argue that the English market-based, league table and floor target driven, competitive education system is a spectacular generator of perverse incentives that lower standards at all levels including higher education.

The evidence for this is mounting as my predictions become realised.
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