School standards minister wants boys to focus on getting better GCSEs, not higher levels on games consoles. Michael Shaw reports.
A plan to scrap revision leave for pupils will not increase work for teachers, a minister has said.
David Miliband, minister for school standards, has revealed that he is considering ending the practice of letting teenagers spend up to 15 days at home before their GCSEs. Instead, he would like pupils to do supervised revision at their schools where he says they would not be distracted by computer games and television.
Mr Miliband said the scheme would not create more work for teachers because teaching assistants could take up most of the student supervision burden.
He said study leave was a laissez-faire approach to revision which seemed particularly damaging to boys and to pupils from the poorest backgrounds.
"The final weeks and days before sitting exams are a chance to focus and fine-tune that can make all the difference to life-chances. Yet for boys in particular the freedom of study leave has eroded their choices later in life. It is the next level of GCSE performance that counts, not the next level on the games console."
The minister said he had been inspired by Kemnal technology college in Sidcup, Kent, which abolished home study leave two years ago and even asks pupils to attend lessons on the mornings before exams.
Headteacher John Atkins believes this change alone has improved GCSE results by up to 10 per cent. The proportion of pupils at the boys' school gaining five A*-C grades soared from only 7 per cent in 1990 to more than 50 per cent last year.
Mr Atkins said the school had brought in extra support staff to invigilate in exams while teaching assistants helped to supervise.
He said. "Not all the boys liked it, but afterwards they told teachers it was one of the best things they had ever done."
Mr Miliband plans to monitor the results this summer of 30 other specialist schools which are following Kemnal's example before deciding whether to change the Government's guidance.
However, the idea that schools would be advised to drop study leave was criticised by the National Union of Teachers and the National Association of Head Teachers.
John Bangs, deputy general secretary of the NUT, said teachers often made good use of study leave weeks to help individual pupils with their problems while others revised at home, and that teaching assistants lacked detailed knowledge about the students.
Teenagers on Middlesbrough's Youth Forum were also unimpressed. Claire, 15, said: "It's good to have time to go through the work on your own. Keeping pupils in school could just add pressure."