Whizz kids boot up for ICT GCSE - at age nine
When thousands of teenagers sit their GCSE exams next June, they will be joined by a special group of hopefuls - a handful of nine-year-olds from the Midlands.
The eight Year 5 pupils from Leamore Primary in Walsall are currently cramming two years' worth of ICT into a single year in the hope of gaining their first GCSE - even before they move to secondary school.
The pupils were entered for the exam after their teacher Michelle Hill, who is also the school's deputy head, noticed they had an "insatiable hunger" to learn more about computers.
"We began to notice something when we started to give the children stuff to take home," Ms Hill said.
"They were coming back and asking for more. They began to excel at what they were doing, so we set up an email account for them at home and they started sending in all this work. Now they are eating spreadsheets for breakfast."
The group is made up of seven girls and one boy who study the ICT course after school on Fridays. The curriculum focuses on three areas: spreadsheets, databases and desktop publishing, and Ms Hill says she can hardly keep up.
"They are now asking to look at website development - it's really unbelievable," she said. "The exam board asks for them to be entered into a specific paper, so we placed them all in the higher one. It means they have to get at least a C."
The school opted for the ICT exam with Welsh board WJEC as it felt this best reflected their pupils' needs.
David Brownsword, Leamore's head, said the pupils' change in attitude towards computers occurred when the school upgraded its ICT equipment.
"When I joined the school, you would turn your computer on at 8.30am and would still be waiting for it to boot up by 4.30pm," he said. "So we had a complete overhaul and now have 70 laptops, and even our own online radio station. It has seen standards increase dramatically."
But Mr Brownsword believes the feat is all the more impressive considering the pupils' backgrounds.
"They come from very challenging backgrounds," he said. "The school is located in an area classed among the 20 per cent most deprived in the country, so for them to be aiming for their first GCSE aged just nine or 10 is amazing."