Girl is told 13 GCSEs are not good enough for her school’s sixth form

Author: By Ian Herbert, Northern Correspondent

A schoolgirl who has just secured 13 GCSE passes at grades A to C has been told she is not talented enough to take A-levels at her school’s sixth form.

Amy Dale achieved an A in GCSE technology at Emmanuel College in Gateshead, Tyne and Wear but has still been refused a place at the school’s A-level class in the subject. Her borderline B in chemistry was also considered inadequate.

Amy, who also achieved an A in English literature, eight Bs and three Cs, helped Emmanuel secure a 99 per cent A-to-C pass rate at GCSE last week. In all, 185 pupils achieved five or more A to C grades.

The college’s head, Nigel McQuoid, admitted that Amy’s rejection was a consequence of the common currency of GCSE A grades, which in some subjects no longer demonstrated A-level potential.

In Amy’s case, he said, it would be “a cruel thing to raise confidence when the ability is not there”. Her technology A grade was not what it seemed as the leap to A-level was “enormous”. “Sixty per cent [of the GCSE mark] is on a piece of coursework. If you produce a good piece of work for that you are really flying. The A-level course demands high competence in electronics.”

Mr McQuoid said the school had been “a victim of its own success” but denied school league table performance dictated his admissions policy.

The non-denominational college, which has a strong Christian basis and an emphasis on firm discipline, was founded only 10 years ago but is now one of the North East’s strongest non-selective schools. Its A-to-C pass rate had risen from an initial 75 per cent to 90 per cent last year before this year’s record performance. “[We] get GCSE results which our pupils would not get elsewhere,” Mr McQuoid said. “In Amy, we had a girl who did well in terms of her potential. When we considered the A-levels she wanted to do it was about more than the cold, raw figures.”

Amy, who was advised by the college to consider a GNVQ course, said she had been in tears since getting her results. “I was told almost immediately that [they] were not good enough to do the A-levels I wanted to do. I felt as though all the effort was worthless.”

She has subsequently approached nearby Wickham Comprehensive, where she will sit A-levels in maths and statistics, English literature, technology and general studies.

Her mother, Alison Cawthorn, an optician’s practice manager, said: “Emmanuel College claims to be a mixed ability state school, but it is obvious the school is more interested in national league tables than in helping pupils.

“My other daughter, Nichola, is 14 and at the same school. She is about to start her GCSEs and she is now left wondering if the effort she saw her sister make is worth it.”

Peter Maughan, a Whickham parent governor and Gateshead borough councillor, said: “To refuse students the chance to study A-levels after they passed 13 GCSEs at the sort of grades Amy achievedis outrageous.”

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