No copying off mum!

14th May 2010 at 01:00
Primary school experiment pits kids against their parents in GCSE-level tests

It is one of the most unusual primary classes in England, put together to see what happens when parents join their children to take GCSE-level tests.

Half are far too old to be in school, while the other half are far too young to be taking key stage 4 exams. But all who took part in the first experiment of its kind passed.

The pupils are among the first in the country to take the course - OCR adult literacy and numeracy tests, equivalent to GCSEs in league tables - at a primary school.

The experiment, at Harvills Hawthorn Primary, in West Bromwich, was designed to boost the confidence of the children, who are all on the gifted and talented register. Mums and dads were invited to sit in on the lessons, and became so involved they asked to be examined in the same way. Such has been the success of the project, it will continue with parents and pupils taking harder courses.

The group was taught every Friday afternoon and studied for 15 weeks before it was examined.

"This all started when we decided we wanted to do something better for gifted and talented children. We wanted to stretch them and formal qualifications seemed a good way to do that," said headteacher Harold McNeil. "Involving parents was a brilliant idea. Children really had to twist their arms to get them to turn up, but we thought this was important for the children. From then on the project really took off.

"Children were doing so well we realised they were ready for public exams, and parents wanted to take them too. We serve a challenging area with high unemployment and many parents didn't get qualifications when they were at school.

"We didn't do this to look good as a school, we did it to give the children confidence and to give help to the community."

The project is organised by deputy head Jo Sheen and taught by Sandwell Adult Family Learning tutor Iain Cusack.

Nine children aged between nine and 11 were joined by seven adults. They all sat the exams in maths and English, taking different levels.

Most of the parents are going to carry on studying, with the school providing more courses, probably in vocational subjects.

"From what we hear the exams created real competition at home. Children wanted to beat their parents and they studied together," Mr McNeil said. "We will be working closely with local secondary schools to make sure the pupils can continue working at a higher level when they leave."

Mrs Sheen said the identification of children as being gifted and talented had made their parents more likely to become involved with the school. "That's what got them inside the classroom in the first place, but the more they supported their children, the more they wanted to be involved," she said.

Julie Armstrong, who took part with her 10-year-old son Sam, said the course had made it easier to help him with homework.

"I did worry about the capability of children to take exams at such a young age, and Sam was wary of tackling things he hadn't been taught in class," she said. "But it's been fantastic. We have both really enjoyed it and Sam is very proud of himself."

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