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Education written question – answered on 15th October 2012.

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Photo of Rushanara Ali Rushanara Ali Shadow Minister (International Development)

To ask the Secretary of State for Education what assessment he has made of the potential effect on social mobility in (a) Bethnal Green and Bow, (b) Tower Hamlets and (c) nationally of his proposed changes to the GCSE system.

Photo of David Laws David Laws The Minister of State, Cabinet Office, The Minister for Schools

Our exam reforms will lead to higher aspirations and greater achievement for all pupils, boosting social mobility. The current GCSE system is not serving pupils from disadvantaged backgrounds well. Pupils eligible for free school meals (FSM) are significantly less likely at the moment to achieve good GCSEs in English or maths. Approximately half of FSM pupils fail to achieve a grade C or above in English and in maths, compared to less than 30% of non-FSM pupils. Only 35% of FSM pupils achieved five GCSEs or equivalents at A*- C including English and maths in 2011, compared to 62% of non-FSM pupils.

The reforms and improvements that we are making through improved teacher training, pupil premium support for disadvantaged pupils, greater freedoms for head teachers and the growth of academies and free schools mean that students will be operating at a higher level, no matter what their background. Even as qualifications become more rigorous, more students will be equipped to clear the higher bar. Our aim is that over time a higher proportion of children will succeed than do so now and that we will close the attainment gap that has been a long-standing feature of our education system.

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