Healthcare academy entries for GCSE biology total ... 0

15th April 2011 at 01:00
School branded 'an embarrassment' as head backs alternative qualifications

An academy that aims to equip pupils for health service careers entered none of them for GCSE biology and just 17 per cent for any science GCSE at all, new league tables show.

But the head of the Manchester Health Academy is unapologetic and says the alternative courses and skills offered to his pupils will do more to help their job prospects.

Barry Burke also argues that the Government is "wrong" to reveal how much use schools make of alternative qualifications such as the BTEC for league tables, because it will end up restricting pupil choice.

However, one right-leaning think-tank says his school is "an embarrassment".

The academy, sponsored by the Central Manchester University Hospitals NHS Trust, has a remit to ensure that its pupils are "well equipped" for the "many great job and career opportunities related to health".

Its website also says the academy, in Wythenshawe, Manchester, will "emphasise the need for high levels of achievement" in the sciences.

Last year it entered 14 out of a possible 82 for a science GCSE - general science; eight passed at C grade or above.

Mr Burke told The TES that the remaining pupils took BTEC science qualifications, but the decision was not motivated by league table positions.

He added that health service jobs range from logistics to transport and air conditioning engineers. "We are in a particularly disadvantaged part of Manchester," the head said. "We are making the curriculum digestible for our students. We are not disadvantaging them. It is quite the opposite - because they are more engaged they are succeeding.

"We are developing the attitudes and behaviours that employers recognise as being more important than academic qualifications."

The head said personal qualities such as self-confidence and ambition would serve pupils better than a biology GCSE.

But Anastasia de Waal, education director of think-tank Civitas, said: "Employers would beg to differ.

"They would want employability to go alongside basic knowledge and that is why I think GCSEs are pretty popular still. This is an embarrassment.

"Maybe they had very menial jobs in mind. But if they are not doing very basic subjects like biology then how are they setting their kids up for the future?"

The details of the academy's GCSE entries were revealed two weeks ago in the latest stage of ministers' drive for greater transparency on school exam results.

Figures were released giving school-by-school information on GCSE entries and grades in every subject and the proportion of pupils achieving the benchmark of five A*-C grades, including English and maths, when "equivalent" qualifications were removed.

Mr Burke said the Government had shifted the goalposts with the new measure. "I think it is wrong," he said.

"We are moving to a system that will just recognise qualifications I took when I was at school which was a very, very long time ago."

Analysis, pages 26-27.

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