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Wednesday, 19 April, 2000, 10:03 GMT 11:03 UK
Exam deposit for 'lazy' pupils
wide aerial shot of pupils sitting in exam room
Schools have to pay entry fees for exams - whether pupils turn up or not
A school is asking parents of "lazy" pupils to pay a deposit to make sure their children turn up to sit their GCSE exams.

Wildern School in Hedge End, near Southampton, has written to parents to ask for the deposit of up to 153, which they will lose if their children do not take their exams this summer.

The idea behind the move is to stop public money being wasted on pupils who have no intention of taking the exams.



There isn't much point in paying for a pupil to sit an exam if they are going to be ungraded for it.

Jeffrey Threlfall, head teacher

The school hopes the scheme - costing parents 17 for each exam, with a maximum of nine subjects - will encourage pupils who have not done enough coursework to catch up.

But it has been criticised by some parents and teaching union members, and Hampshire education authority has said it will investigate the issue.

Each year, the school, which has 1,500 pupils, has to decide in January which exams pupils should be entered for, and has to pay entry fees.

Head teacher Jeffrey Threlfall said pupils targeted by the scheme would be those who had not completed their GCSE coursework, as coursework accounted for up to 40% of the overall grade.

He said he had never had to cash cheques from parents in the past.

Motivation

"We are one of the few schools with 100% pass rates for GCSE at grades A* to G for all youngsters.

"In order to do this we have to employ strategies that ensure as many youngsters are as motivated as possible.

"We are talking about two or three youngsters a year who obviously need encouragement and motivation to sit their exams in two or three subjects.

"There isn't much point in paying for a pupil to sit an exam if they are going to be ungraded for it.

"The purpose of this is to encourage and motivate that pupil to catch up with their coursework so they can sit their exam and get a GCSE grade.

"The bottom line is any parent who doesn't want to do this doesn't have to. It is optional.

"If we think a pupil should be entered for the exam we enter them. If we don't, we don't enter them, but we haven't had to do that yet."

'Insensitive'

Hampshire education committee chairman Don Allen said the scheme seemed a bit "heavy-handed", and that the LEA would be looking into the matter.

He said: "I can understand the motivation for this. Children should be encouraged to complete coursework and schools do not want to waste their resources.

"But there are some families which might not be able to stump up 153."

The Department for Education said: "We have yet to speak to this particular school so we cannot make any comments. But the 1996 Education Act does make it clear that a school cannot ask for fees before an exam is taken.

"If a child doesn't turn up for the examination without good reason then a school can recover the costs - but only afterwards."

Pete Sopowski, spokesman for the National Union of Teachers, said the scheme seemed to be "an insensitive mechanism to encourage parents to get their children to turn up for an exam".

But a spokesman for the Secondary Heads Association said it was common practice for schools to ask parents to pay for missed GCSE exams, and that getting the money in advance seemed logical.

Hampshire County Council said in a statement: "Schools are entitled by law to recoup the costs of exams when children do not sit them.

"At Wildern School, two or three parents whose children have not handed in the necessary coursework have been asked to pay a deposit in case the child does not sit the exam.

"These are matters which Hampshire County Council would normally leave to a school's head teacher and governing body to decide.

"However, since concern has been expressed, the county council will be looking into the implications of this school's practice."

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