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Football tournaments penalise GCSE students. Can't we avoid this fixture clash?

11 February 2019

Research by Simon Burgess and Steven Proud has been the basis for an article published in The Guardian that highlights how pupils massively underperform in years when there’s a World Cup or European Championship.

An excerpt from The Guardian reads: "Anyone who has ever revised for exams has struggled with the battle to retain focus. That task is made dramatically harder when attempted in the midst of international football tournaments – the ultimate monsters of distraction. 

Fascinating new research from respected academics Robert Metcalfe, Simon Burgess and Steven Proud brings home quite how important this is. They compare GCSE results in the 2000s for all teenagers in England in tournament years compared to football-free ones. They find that pupils do significantly worse during tournament years: across all pupils the chances of achieving the key benchmark of five good GCSEs fell by 12%. Girls, as well as boys, do worse (though the latter are hit harder).

But this overall dip in results is dwarfed when the researchers zoom in on particular groups. The chances of white working-class boys – who already massively underperform other groups – reaching the bar of five good GCSEs fell by 28% during tournament years. Black Caribbean boys experienced a similar decline. Given the study covered years that predated the rise of mass social media, if anything it might understate the effect today."

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