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One in 10 secondary pupils 'ineligible' to sit GCSEs

The Department of Education statistics present an analysis of exam performance of pupils in 2015/16

MORE than one in 10 secondary school pupils are being declared ineligible to sit exams, new figures reveal

Hundreds of young people are still being excluded from GCSEs meaning they are invisible from government statistics designed to gauge performance.

About 1,600 in Year 12 last year, the majority of them in non-grammar schools, did not take a single GCSE.

The Department of Education's latest statistical bulletin presents an analysis of exam performance of pupils in Year 12 and 14 in 2015/16.

It includes information on examination performance by gender, sector, and free school meal entitlement.

In 2015/16, 67.9 per cent of Year 12 pupils achieved five or more GCSEs at grades A*-C including English and maths, an increase of 0.9 percentage points from 2014/15.

Almost half - 47 per cent - of free school meal entitled pupils achieved this.

At A-level, 66.3 per cent of pupils achieved three or more at grades A*-C, up from 64.9 per cent the previous year.

Non-grammar schools saw a slight increase in achievement at both Year 12 and Year 14 while grammar schools experienced a slight decrease.

In 2015, approximately 1,600 Year 12 pupils, around 7 per cent of the cohort, were declared ineligible.

This ineligibility rate varies by school type - 10.9 per cent of Year 12 pupils in non-grammar compared with only 1.5 per cent in grammar schools.

Only pupils who sit exams are included in Summary of Annual Examination Results (SAER) returns and, therefore, official GCSE pass rates. Ineligible pupils are not included in these statistics, which are used to compile performance tables.

Counting every young person, whether they sat GCSEs or not, would see pass rates fall.

It has long been claimed that schools remove poorer-performing pupils from exams to prevent pass rates from being affected adversely.

Pupils can be ineligible for reasons including serious illness, including mental health issues, and pregnancy. They can also be excluded if they transfer schools, have a statement of special educational needs or "serious welfare issues".

In her last annual report, chief inspector Noelle Buick said the criteria for the permitted exclusion of pupils from pupil examinations data "needs to be the subject of further investigation and research".

"School leadership needs to act with integrity in order to be transparent with all stakeholders with regard to how many pupils are declared ineligible from inclusion in their statistics when they are being quoted for accountability, publicity or any other purposes," she said.

The new statistics also showed that the achievement gap between grammar and non-grammar schools was closing.

In 2005/06 the gap at GCSE was 53.2 percentage points; by 2015/16 this gap had fallen to 23.8 percentage points.

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