Ask a teacher

23rd February 2007 at 00:00
Should pupils be allowed to sit GCSEs as early as Year 9, and is it better to have a grade C aged 13 or a grade A aged 16? Why the rush?

Sara, Essex

A The only class I've seen warned for their conduct in a public exam was a class of high achieving boys who took their English GCSEs a year early.

They were sitting an AS in English language and some just didn't see the value of this additional qualification. Some of those boys only got a C and lost out in the process. Expressing developed ideas and responding to complex literature are not just skills that can be crammed into a few terms; they require maturity as well as knowledge, and maturing is a process that simply takes time.

John, Stratford-upon-Avon, Warwickshire

A I wonder if your question denotes a suspicion of the very clever. Would you apply the same question to gifted games players or piano players? I cannot see any good reason for holding back someone from a challenge that will motivate them and lead to the reward of real achievement.

Richard Lloyd, Selsey

A Many pupils will want to take their GCSEs "early". Of these, a number will pass at a grade which is considered acceptable. Others will not and are a cause for concern. Taking the qualification early and under-performing might damage their confidence. The tricky thing is to recognise this latter category of student. I think it's all about making professional judgment, and giving the pupils and parents a strong steer. We are not in education to simply meet the wrongly perceived needs of the self-indulgent.

Margaret Thomas, Peacehaven

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