Last week Michael Gove suggested that the ‘bottom 25%‘ of students should take a CSE, or at least a qualification that is lower than a GCSE in order to cater for their needs.
This 25% figure seemed both arbitrary and a bit rum, so I asked Chris Cook to get me some numbers and having sent those through I analysed and found that last year 83.5% of students achieved at least one C at GCSE. This suggests that - at a maximum – only approx. 16.5% of students could reasonably (ethically?) be entered for a qualification that doesn’t allow access to the C grade mark. However, given there’s only 1 mark between a C and a D at the grade boundary most people would rightly be uncomfortable with the idea that everyone in this 16.5% is definitely out of reach of the C grade. It is likely that on the right day some of them could have done better (and would have done in mock exams, etc).
To make the rule more stringent then we would probably only want to enter a student for a CSE if they were likely to get an E or below. I looked again at last year’s figures and found only 7.7% of students achieve only E grades or below in their GCSEs*. A whopping 92.3% of students achieve at least one D grade. This number is even more startling if one only looks at students NOT on the SEN register; in this case just 2.2% of students receive only E grades or below. Note, these calculations are based on full GCSEs – not BTECs, or equivalents – they are all full GCSEs. Hence, if Gove wants to bring in a qualification for people who really are unlikely to pass GCSEs then he may be right to do so (see my blog below and here) but he needs to recognise that it will only really be useful for 7.7% of students (most of whom have a special education need) and not a fictional ‘bottom 25′.
[*Update 18:43 - The figures above don't include students who didn't sit GCSEs at all. If you count that in then this figure rises to 10.5%. It's still a long way from 25 and probably also includes a bunch of private school students sitting the IB]