Magazine article Times Educational Supplement

Schools Reeling after 'Clobbering' in GCSEs

Magazine article Times Educational Supplement

Schools Reeling after 'Clobbering' in GCSEs

Article excerpt

Unexpectedly low results lead to 'despair' in disadvantaged areas

Hundreds of schools in England and Wales have been "clobbered" by lower than expected GCSE results that will send them plummeting down league tables, according to the first large-scale analysis of this summer's exams.

As well as widespread concerns over the grading of GCSE English, first reported by TES, at least 200 secondary schools received unexpectedly low results in GCSE maths.

The figures have emerged from the PiXL (Partners in Excellence) Club, which worked with more than 400 schools entering pupils for GCSEs this year. Overall, it reports that schools serving disadvantaged pupils have been particularly badly affected by changes to GCSEs and the accountability system.

According to the organisation, the vast majority of its member schools usually improve the proportion of pupils achieving the benchmark of five GCSEs at grades A*-C including English and maths. But Sir John Rowling, chair of PiXL, said that the proportion had fallen in around half of the schools this year.

"There are many schools where this has had a devastating impact and they are often in disadvantaged areas, coastal schools," he said. "There is despair, almost, among a lot of schools at what has happened. There are serious beliefs in many people that it is grossly unfair and disproportionately impacting on the hopes of disadvantaged, needy kids."

Sir John said that virtually all the schools that had missed the benchmark had received poorer than expected results for Year 11 pupils in GCSE maths. This trend was masked in the national figures - which show a 4.8 percentage point rise in A*-C grades - because of a reduction in early maths entries from weaker 15-year-olds, according to Sir John. "In reality, this Year 11 has been clobbered," he said.

Last week, Ofqual said schools had tended to enter only their most able pupils for maths at age 15. But the watchdog added that, nationally, results for 16-year-olds were up 3.9 percentage points at grade C.

Brian Lightman, general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders, said that unexpectedly low GCSE English results were a problem in many secondaries. It did not appear that the results could all be accounted for by Ofqual's explanations of changes in entry patterns and the removal of speaking and listening from the overall English grade, he added. …

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