Education CommitteeFurther written evidence submitted by Advisory Committee of Mathematics Education (ACME)


ACME believes that multiple entry to GCSE—the practice of entering students for GCSE mathematics with several exam boards simultaneously—should be considered alongside the question of early entry, as many of the drivers and implications are the same.

Below are three testimonials from teachers or advisors who have used or encountered this practice in their work.

As a National Challenge school we were under huge pressure to raise exam pass rates in a short period of time. Despite high value-added scores and good Ofsted ratings, we simply had to improve the GCSE figures. We opted to enter students for multiple exams—in June 2010 we got an extra six students to reach grade C in Mathematics by entering them for Edexcel linear, Edexcel modular and OCR. In English this took us from 23% to 55% A* to C. So we are no longer a National Challenge school, and no longer at risk of closure. But since the drive to improve our results year on year still remains, the push for early and multiple entry hasn’t changed, in both Maths and English. We secured at least an extra five grade Cs in June 2011 by putting students into both linear and modular courses.

If we hadn’t been able to do this then our school might have been closed. What choice do we have? Banning multiple entry wouldn’t tackle the cause of the problem here, which is the focus on arbitrary performance targets that don’t take account of value added. Our teaching hasn’t changed, and other than repeated and early exam entries our methods haven’t changed. While we know taking more than one test gives them improved confidence and allows them to pass, it has also reduced any value added, since once they gain the C we stop pushing them to improve, they are no longer of concern.

I don’t like the students doing exams early, and multiple entry means that they have virtually a whole day in an exam. For the majority of students it makes no difference (they fail both or pass both). But, when there are a few students who do pass, it is hard to argue that it isn’t beneficial, even forgetting about the school, and league tables. For those five students multiple entry could have a massive impact on their future, since they have now gained a C.

When I was a LA consultant I was asked about this on several occasions particularly in National Challenge schools as they were given money to improve their results. In all cases this was predicated on the notion that some bodies were “easier” than others. My guidance was always that the content coverage of each body every year would be slightly different and this would explain variations and they would be better advised to spend the money on staff training which would be more likely to deliver the improved outcomes. However, some schools did pursue it and gained a few extra Cs but at significant cost.
Ex-LA Consultant

Informally, I certainly have examples of schools that are entering students this summer for modular entry with one exam board and linear entry with another board. Sometimes this enables one of the entries to be at Foundation level and the other at Higher. Schools are no longer called National Challenge but this now happens in schools that have had two consecutive satisfactory inspections—it is simply regarded as another tactic to improve results.

May 2012

Prepared 2nd July 2012