Heads in early exam pledge

Schools stick with early entry exams after last-minute Government change.

Schools stick with early entry exams after last-minute Government change. - Credit: Archant

SCHOOLS in North Somerset have agreed to risk lower results in their league tables to allow students to take early entry exams for GCSEs.

Last month, education secretary Michael Gove announced that only a student’s first entry to a GCSE exam will count in their school’s performance tables.

Even though this could mean less favourable results for schools, a number of headteachers have decided to continue with the exams if it is in the pupils’ best interests.

Christopher Wade, headteacher of Nailsea School, said: “Before this change in policy we had already planned early entries for the year as we wanted to give our year 11s the best chance of gaining a good GCSE grade of C or above.

“After consultation with governors and staff I have decided to continue with the early entry exams for the vast majority of students as I firmly believe this is the right and moral thing to do.”

Mr Wade met with other headteachers in the district and asked MP Dr Liam Fox to speak to Mr Gove in an attempt to change the policy.

He added: “It is very clear to me that ministers are distant from the front line and the realities of teaching. They cannot see the confusion and chaos being created, nor do they seem to have any respect for the views of the profession.”

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Mr Gove said he believes early entry exams have resulted in schools following a ‘narrowed curriculum’ focused on exam preparation rather than ‘sound subject teaching’.

He also claims evidence shows pupils who enter early perform worse overall and described the exams as a ‘damaging trend that is harming the interests of many pupils’.

The changes will take affect from September 29, but many teachers are upset at the short notice which has been given.

Gary Lewis, headteacher at Gordano School in Portishead, said: “There probably is some sense in reducing the amount of assessment that goes on in the school system. What I think is completely wrong is to announce changes literally two weeks before an entry date.

“Because the risk is all for the school we felt we had to do the right thing by the students which is enter them for exams when we think they are ready.”

Christopher Sammons, headteacher at St Katherine’s School in Pill, agrees early entry exams are not helpful for all students but expressed regret that schools could not use their discretion on which pupils to enter.