A school has sparked outrage by offering underachieving pupils CASH ‘bribes’ in return for passing their EXAMS, it was revealed today.
Struggling students at Oldbury Academy could get up to £200 if they drag flagging GCSE grades upwards – whereas high-fliers will get nothing.
Details of the scheme have prompted fears children will now hold their school to ransom – with a “we will only work for money” attitude.
Parents with pupils at the Government-funded school say the move is also unfair to those who work hard to achieve high grades in the first place.
And it has also sparked concerns low-ability pupils would be ignored in favour of ‘borderline’ candidates who could be nudged towards a coveted ‘C’ grade.
The controversial policy is believed to focus on a group of 49 year 11 pupils due to sit their GCSEs this summer.
Around 60 per cent of pupils at the taxpayer funded school in Oldbury, West Mids., achieved A* to C grades in their GCSEs last year.
Academic Christopher Hill, 29, whose father used to work at the specialist sports academy yesterday accused the 1,610-pupil school of setting a bad example to children.
The University of Birmingham teaching fellow – who has written to education secretary Michael Gove and regulator Ofsted – said the incentives could cost the taxpayer thousands of pounds.
He said: “As far as I can see the scheme targets borderline pupils who may be struggling to get a ‘C’ grade and push them over the line to get that all-important ‘C’.
“Is it not unfair to those pupils who will achieve their results through honest endeavour and diligent application without being bribed to work harder.
“This initiative will cost somewhere in the region of £10,000.
“Times are hard and many services are being cut.
“Is it therefore justifiable to spend money in this way when the same funding could be used to provide important and educationally valuable experiences for many more of its pupils.
“If I was a parent at the school and I had a child who worked hard and honestly to get a ‘B’ or ‘C’, and they came home to say other students were being offered #200 to get a ‘C’ I’d be deeply concerned.
“It will create a massive disparity – I worry it could have the opposite effect and middling ability children who have worked hard in year 10 might actually think ‘I’ve worked my socks off this year but if I slack off a bit next year I might get some cash.’
“Pupils who do not appear likely to achieve a ‘C’ may also be excluded from such a scheme and it would therefore lead to the neglect of pupils who most need attention and improvement.
“The incentives offered are therefore targeted at the pupils whose results can make the school look best.”
Parents yesterday also expressed outrage and claimed the scheme created a division among pupils.
A mother of a Year 11 pupil, who asked not to be named, said: “My daughter has been predicted A and B grades and I’ve heard nothing about any rewards.
“It’s a bit of a kick in the teeth for kids who just get their head down and get on with it, which I was always taught to do.
“Once word gets around that they’ll give you cash if your grades are low kids will start deliberately underperforming so they can get their hands on it.”
But Headteacher John Martin defended the initiative and claimed it prepared children for real life situations where hard work is rewarded.
He also denied that the school, which received an ‘outstanding’ Ofsted rating in 2011, was targeting certain groups of children.
He said: “Oldbury Academy has a wide-ranging set of rewards as we believe that students grow and develop as a result of reward and praise.
“All students have access to our rewards system and the suggestion that there is a narrow focus on particular sub-groups of students is not in any shape or form accurate.
“Meticulous tracking of progress and target setting within the school reinforces expectation and raises aspirations and the targets set are highly challenging.
“Students need to demonstrate significant progress before being considered for recognition through our reward scheme.
“This is how it should be in that commitment, hard work and going the extra mile brings reward at school and in life.
“The development of independent learning is crucial and increasingly our students are seeing this and choosing to learn because they ’want to’ rather than they ‘have to’.”
The TaxPayers Alliance yesterday (Thurs) criticised the ‘highly questionable’ methods of Oldbury Academy and accused them of undermining the ‘value of education.’
Chief Executive Matthew Sinclair said: “Bribing pupils with cash in an effort to improve their grades is not only a highly questionable use of taxpayers’ money, but it also sends out totally the wrong message.
“The motivation of pupils should be down to the quality and engagement of their teaching; cash rewards only promote a short term attitude that undermines the value of education.
“This scheme seems more about making the academy look good rather than rewarding the hard work of all pupils at the school.”
Parents gathered at the school yesterday afternoon gave mixed opinions about the decision to reward pupils with cash incentives.
One 40-year-old mum-of-two, who did not wish to be named, said: “I think its a terrible idea.
“My daughter is not the brightest, and she’s going to feel left out and I think the straight A-pupils will think the same.
“It just promotes mediocrity really. I believe it will only segregate pupils even more.”
But another dad, who would only give his name as Mr Holt, added: “It teaches them the principles of being rewarded financially for their hard work.
“This is the world in which they will be going into within a couple of years anyway, so I can’t see what the fuss is about.”