Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Schools Fail the Test on Exams; GCSE Results Shock New-Style Tables Highlight Falling Pass Rates in the Two Core Subjects

Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Schools Fail the Test on Exams; GCSE Results Shock New-Style Tables Highlight Falling Pass Rates in the Two Core Subjects

Article excerpt

Byline: By Graeme Whitfield

THE Goverment's school league table system has caused huge gaps in pupils' basic maths and English skills, it was claimed last night.

The failings are highlighted in new-style tables published today which show that improvements in recent years in many North-East teenagers' exam results have not been matched by passes in these two core subjects.

New rules judge local education authorities by the percentage of children who get five or more GCSE passes at grade A*-C, including English and maths, rather than just five good passes in any subjects.

And in some areas of the North-East, this has led to a 20% fall in results - with less than half of pupils in the region getting good passes in English and maths.

Experts say the new tables revealed that schools had been neglecting basic literacy and numeracy to meet Government targets and this had led many schools to enter pupils for so-called "soft" courses, such as sports science or GNVQs, to boost their results for the tables.

North-East business leaders say the new figures show the problems they are facing in attracting school leavers with good basic skills.

North-East Chamber of Commerce spokesman Mike Parker said: "We welcome the inclusion of English and maths in the compiling of the league tables.

"There's been a noticeable drop in standards of English and maths over a number of years and businesses have been crying out for a focus on numeracy and literacy.

"Hopefully it will focus those in education in ensuring that those going into the world of work have the basic skills to do the job at hand."

Every LEA in the country has seen its GCSE score fall because of the new measures, but some of the biggest differences have been recorded in this region.

Gateshead suffered most, falling from eighth best area in the country last year to 63rd this year.

Only 45% of its pupils got English and maths in their five passes compared to 70% who passed five other subjects. Newcastle and Sunderland also have a 20% basic skills gap and have only just over a third of their pupils (34%) reaching the English and maths standard.

Schools in Sunderland could at least take comfort for a strong performance in A-levels that made the city the seventh best in the country. …

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