Page last updated at 12:41 GMT, Thursday, 27 August 2009 13:41 UK

Maths whizz, age eight, gets A*

By Hannah Richardson
Education reporter, BBC News

Xavier Gordon-Brown celebrates with his maths books
Xavier knew his times tables at the age of two-and-a-half

An eight-year-old maths whizz is thought to be the youngest person to have obtained an A* in a GCSE.

Xavier Gordon-Brown from Haywards Heath, West Sussex, reads maths text books for pleasure and started his maths A-level the day of his GCSE exam.

His mother Erica says the youngster is a natural, knew his times tables by the age of two-and-a-half and could do large sums in his head by age four.

He also plays three musical instruments and speaks three languages.

Mrs Gordon-Brown insists he has not been pushed and she has always tried to keep a healthy balance.

"When he does something he likes to do it well but the exam didn't bother him. To him it's just maths.

"He hasn't been hot-housed. He sets himself very high standards and to be honest it can drive me to distraction sometimes."

When he doesn't get his brain exercised - he's up and down and always doing handstands
Erica Gordon-Brown

She continues: "I tried to get him to give up just one of his activities recently because I couldn't keep up with all the running around but he wouldn't hear of it."

Xavier started work on his maths A-level, which he is planning to do over one year, the day he finished his GCSE exam.

Mrs Gordon-Brown says: "He is a happy little boy and he has a lovely personality - he's very interested in trying new things.

"I tried to say to him to do the A-level in two years - we'll just see how it all balances out."

Xavier Gordon-Brown celebrates with his maths books
Xavier Gordon-Brown found the maths GCSE "easy" at the age of eight

But being clever is not always as easy as it may seem.

Xavier went to a local state school at the age of four, but his mother said the teachers - although they tried giving him extra work - could not do much for him.

He has since taken a year out of school.

'Bored stiff'

She says: "They couldn't find enough for him to do, but he is going back in September at the age of nine.

"I know when he goes back he will be bored stiff."

She says it can be tough being a parent because you never know if you are doing the right thing.

"What we have to keep teaching him is that some children learn at a slower pace because sometimes he can come out with things that are really rude.

"When he doesn't get his brain exercised - he's up and down and always doing handstands," she says.

This is partly why he has been given extra tuition from specialised education centre Ryde Teaching, over the past year.

Dr Mike Ryde, who runs the college, says it would be cruel to hold pupils like Xavier back and not allow him to take exams like GCSEs early.

If a child wants to move forward and enjoys the subject then it is cruel to hold them back
Dr Mike Ryde

He says a lot of people feel uncomfortable about working with young children in this way but he feels it is all positive as long as the child is happy and keen to learn.

He has even run classes for toddlers as young as 18-months-old.

"We genuinely believe it is better to offer children the opportunity to take these examinations across their academic career as opposed to cramming them all in at the end of the one year.

"If a child wants to move forward and enjoys the subject then it is cruel to hold them back."

He says a lot of damage can be done when schools will not let a child move forward at their own pace.

He adds: "Learning is everything from having a cigarette behind the bike sheds to studying algebra."

"We firmly believe that children can achieve much more than the system allows."

And Xavier certainly has.



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