Cash, clothes, holidays and even cars are on offer to those who do well, the study by the Learning and Skills Council shows. It found 95 per cent of GCSE candidates get rewards for exam effort. For 46 per cent, it is cash, for 22 per cent clothes, and for 12 per cent a holiday. A lucky 7 per cent have been promised a car.
Extrapolated nationally, this means parents spend pound;137m a year on rewards. On average parents spend pound;75 on a night out and pound;175 on clothes. A holiday might cost pound;500 and a car pound;1,500.
The prospect of academic success does not seem to match the lure of cash: 54 per cent of pupils would prefer to win the lottery than pass GCSEs. In contrast, 75 per cent would prefer good grades to a date with their favourite celebrity. And 85 per cent would prefer to pass their GCSEs than to appear on the BBC's talent show, Fame Academy.
Nonetheless, pupils felt good grades were only moderately important in securing a job. Candidates therefore found exam preparation less stressful than a family row or the theft of a mobile phone.
But the National Union of Teachers does not believe that today's children are simply after cash and no longer value academic success. A spokeswoman said: "Young people recognise the importance of education. If parents provide additional encouragement, and it works, there's nothing wrong. But the big incentive is to secure your future." The survey of 500 pupils aged 16 to 18 included candidates who have taken GCSEs in the past three years.