Education secretary Michael Gove has warned that the growing trend for entering pupils early for GCSEs may not be in the best interest of many.
In 2007, there were 67,000 early entries in maths and English GCSEs – five per cent and two per cent of all respective entrants in those subjects. The figures suggest that parents and professionals in teaching jobs have encouraged many more pupils to do so in recent years.
In 2010, the total number of early entries stood at 326,000 for those two subjects, or 27 per cent of all maths pupils and 24 per cent of all English students.
Mr Gove has now written to Sir Michael Wilshaw, head of the school inspectorate Ofsted, asking him to look at ways in which the practice could be discouraged.
In the letter, the education secretary said that taking GCSEs early "can be beneficial where it is undertaken as part of a planned programme of accelerated progression through A-Level and beyond".
However, he warned that it has become a "damaging trend that is harming the interest of many pupils".
Department for Education research indicates that early entry can actually be detrimental to attainment and overall GCSE performance.
Its figures show that 29 per cent of early entrants got an A*, A or B in Maths GCSE, which was significantly less than the 37 per cent attaining these marks across all entrants and 41 per cent of end-of-course entrants.
There was a similar picture for English as well in 2010. Some 30 per cent of early entrants achieved an A*, A or B, compared with 41 per cent of all entrants and 45 per cent of end-of-course entrants.
Mr Gove said: "[This] suggests that candidates who enter early perform worse overall than those who do not, even after re-sits are taken into account.
"It seems likely that candidates are being entered before they are ready, and 'banking' a C grade where their performance at Key Stage 2 would suggest that if they had continued to study the subject and taken the GCSE at the end of Year 11 they could have achieved a top grade."
Posted by Charlotte Michaels