Warning over early GCSE in maths

Taking the maths GCSE early or multiple times damages pupils’ education in the subject, experts have warned.

As teenagers across the country anxiously await their results, mathematicians condemned the practice and blamed “a target-driven culture” for skewing behaviour in schools.

The comments, by the Advisory Committee on Mathematics Education (ACME), come just weeks after England’s exams regulator Ofqual suggested that the importance of gaining at least a C grade in maths and English and as the pressure of league tables are fuelling moves towards early and multiple entry.

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Figures show that tens of thousands of pupils took papers for more than one maths GCSE last summer, while the numbers sitting key exams before age 16 has soared.

It is expected these strategies will affect this week’s GCSE results, with predictions that fewer teenagers will score decent grades in subjects like maths and science for the second year running.

Last year 58.4 per cent of maths entries were awarded at least a C, down 0.4pc on the year before, while 60.7 per cent of science entries were awarded A*-C, down from 62.9 per cent in 2011. There were also falls in physics, chemistry and biology.

Overall, 69.4 per cent of all GCSE entries were awarded a C or higher, down from 69.8 the year before.

ACME committee member Richard Browne said: “Early and multiple entry for GCSE mathematics damage mathematical learning.

“A target-driven culture based on league tables has skewed behaviour in schools and encouraged multiple entry.

A Department for Education spokeswoman said they were “increasingly concerned” about early and multiple entry.

“The changes we have made to GCSEs – including moving to end-of-course exams – and reforms to the accountability system will help address this,” she said.

She added GCSE reforms would “restore confidence” in the exams.