Nigeria pupil, 5, passes UK GCSE examination…says she wants to be a doctor

Deborah Thorpe

Nigerian Deborah Thorpe, an East-end Primary School pupil  is being given a special attention in this year’s GCSE results.

Though still at primary school, Debbie, as she is usually referred to by her parents and family friends is giving pupils 10 years her senior a run for their money in the education stakes.

Deborah, who is a pupil at St Bede’s Catholic Primary School near her home in east London, sat her maths GCSE at the tender age of five – and passed.

The youngster takes extra lessons on Saturdays and is not allowed to watch television after school from Monday to Thursday so that she can concentrate on her studies.

She turned six last month and so was only five when she actually sat her GCSE, an exam normally taken by 16-year-olds. Her father, 44-year-old Charles Thorpe from Chadwell Heath, east London, said: ‘We thought we might as well just give it a go. You see young people in the newspapers who have taken exams and you think, why not?

“I wouldn’t say maths is her favourite subject, but when she says she wants to be a doctor I tell her that she must be very good at science and maths. We want her to be outstanding and exceptional in every way.” The mental health support officer does not believe that his daughter is too young to cope with exams.

He said: ‘I wouldn’t say that she is too young. Presidents of the world used to be old and now they are middle-aged. The younger generations are taking over now. ‘We don’t stress her out, telling her ‘you’ve got to do this’. ‘Deborah, who achieved an E grade in her GCSE, said she is not sure if she wants to take any more exams next year but wants to become a doctor when she grows up.

More than one in four girl pupils – 26.5 per cent – were awarded an A or A* this summer – compared with 19.8 per cent of boys exams.

Day of reckoning: Bryony Tyler (centre) reacts after opening her GCSE exam results at West Bridgeford School, Nottingham. Today, thousands of teenagers will discover if they have made the gradeDay of reckoning: Bryony Tyler (centre) reacts after opening her GCSE exam results at West Bridgeford School, Nottingham. Today, thousands of teenagers will discover if they have made the grade

Record GCSE results were being celebrated all over the UK this morning as nervous teenagers discovered if their hard work had made the grade.

Overall, almost one in four (23.2 per cent) pupils scored at least an A grade this year – including A* grades – up from 22.6 per cent in 2010.

And nearly seven in 10 exams (69.8 per cent) were awarded a C or above, according to figures published by the Joint Council for Qualifications (JCQ).

About 650,000 teenagers in England, Wales and Northern Ireland are waking up to their GCSE results today.

The overall A -C pass rate rose for the 23rd year in a row, the national figures show.But boys are failing to close the gap with girls, particularly in top grades.

More than one in four (26.5 per cent) of girls’ entries were awarded an A or A*  this summer, compared to 19.8 per cent of boys’ exams – a gap of 6.7 percentage points and the widest it has been since the A* grade was introduced in 1994.

It is the opposite of A-levels, where last week’s figures showed that boys are closing the gap in top grades. The gender gap has also widened at A -C for GCSE. This year 66 per cent of boys’ exams gained at least a C compared to 73.5 per cent of girls’, a difference of 7.5 percentage points. Last year the gap was 7.2 per cent.

Meanwhile, exam board chief have revealed that modern foreign languages are in ‘long-term decline’ at GCSE level.

Andrew Hall, chief executive of AQA, said: ‘Modern languages are having a hard time, it has to be said, going down 11 per cent over the year, and 22 per cent over five years.’ French is showing the largest overall decrease, with entries down 13.2 per cent from last year, with a 28.8 per cent fall over the past five years.

German is also down by 13.2 per cent from last year, with a five-year drop of 24.9 per cent. Entries for Spanish have fallen by 2.5 per cent from 2010, with the five-year pattern showing a 3.2 per cent fall.

GCSE results 2011

Mr Hall said: ‘There’s an overall downward trend in modern foreign language entries, and Spanish for the first time has fallen back this year. That really is bucking the trend.’

The results also showed that more students are taking separate science subjects at GCSE. The number of those taking physics saw the biggest rise of 16.4 per cent, from 120,455 to 140,183. Chemistry entries went up by 16.2 per cent from 121,988 to 141,724, while biology saw a 14.2 per cent surge from 129,464 to 147,904.

Last week’s A-level results also reflected the increased popularity of science subjects. There was a marked increase in religious studies entries. A total of 199,752 took the subject, an increase of 17.6 per cent.

History and geography have also seen a decline in entries, with history entries down around 2,700, and geography entries slumping by a massive 13,800 in the space of a year.

Jim Sinclair, director of the Joint Council for Qualifications, congratulated students on their results.

He said: ‘The rise of biology, physics and chemistry is welcome news, as is the increased performance in maths and English.

However, the continuing decline of modern foreign languages and the growing divide in performance between boys and girls at the top grades are worrying trends.’

There were a total of 5.15 million GCSE entries this year, a decrease of 4.2 per cent from 2010. The year group size, which has been falling since 2004, has gone down by 2.62 per cent from last year.

Meanwhile, the leader of a teaching union has warned that a shift towards traditional subjects risks ‘demotivating and alienating’ thousands of students.

As thousands of teenagers across England, Wales and Northern Ireland awake to their GCSE results today, Dr Mary Bousted suggested that the introduction of the Government’s flagship English Baccalaureate (EBacc) will restrict pupils’ GCSE choices and leave many without the crucial skills needed for the future.

To gain the EBacc pupils must score at least a C grade at GCSE in English, maths, science, a foreign language and history or geography.

While the EBacc is not compulsory, it has been widely predicted that many secondary schools will begin to steer pupils towards these subjects. The EBacc was included in league tables for the first time earlier this year, with just one in six teenagers in England (15.6 per cent) achieving it.

Dr Bousted, general secretary of the Association of Teachers and Lecturers, said she expects some ‘great results’ today, but added: ‘If the Government has its way, this year’s 16-year-olds will be the last to have had a real choice of subjects and qualifications.

Education Secretary Michael Gove’s English Baccalaureate is likely to restrict the range of subjects taught to GCSE.

‘This risks demotivating and alienating the thousands of young people who struggle with academic subjects and would be better suited to taking a wider variety of subjects to give them the skills for a range of careers.’ Both academic and vocational subjects are important, Dr Bousted said.

‘We hope that those pupils whose schools felt pressured into changing their GCSE subjects midway to meet the English Baccalaureate do not suffer as a result,’ she added.

‘In future we hope that schools resist pressure to push pupils into studying subjects just because they are favoured by whoever is Minister for Education, and concentrate on what’s in the best interests of all their pupils.’

A DfE spokesman said: ‘The EBacc is not compulsory and is only one measure of success – pupils should study what is right for them.

It makes up just five subjects, three of which are compulsory anyway. There is plenty of time left for pupils to study other subjects.

However, these are the subjects which form part of an important core of academic study for those wanting to go on to further learning and will therefore actually make young people more employable.

Sadly, the proportion of pupils doing these five core academic subjects has plummeted from half of all pupils in the late ’90s to just one in five now.


The Government has been accused of betraying young people by ‘stripping away’ their future chances. As teenagers won widespread praise for their GCSE results, union leaders raised concerns that a lack of clear guidance is leaving many youngsters in a ‘maze of confusion’.

Chris Keates, general secretary of the NASUWT teaching union, said: ‘The key question is, having worked so hard and achieved so much, what is on offer from the coalition Government for these young people?

‘Unfortunately, in just over 12 months, this Government has stripped away many of the opportunities available.

‘Apprenticeships have been slashed, financial support axed through the abolition of the education maintenance allowance (EMA), youth unemployment has soared and university places cut’.

‘The coalition has ripped up the social contract between the state and young people.’ Dave Prentis, general secretary of Unison, said: ‘What young people need is clear guidance over where they should go next, and that is just not happening. ‘Many are lost in a maze of confusion, without the careers guidance, financial support, training or apprenticeships available, to help give them a good start in life.’

He added: ‘We do not want the young people celebrating their GCSE results today to become one of the nearly one million 18 to 24-year-olds not in education, employment or training tomorrow.’

But Schools Minister Nick Gibb insisted: ‘Everyone accepts these are very challenging economic times – but no one should leave school unable to progress to work or further study.’
Source: Daily Mail