Sharp rise in schools that offer GCSE alternative

In an article in The Times, 03/08/12, David Hampstead, head of French at HMC's St Paul’s School, is quoted.

The number of schools teaching an alternative to GCSE has quadrupled in two years, figures show today.

International GCSEs (IGCSEs) are popular with independent schools, many of which see them as a more rigorous substitute. But they are no longer the preserve of the private sector after ministers lifted a ban on state schools offering the qualification in 2010.

Michael Gove, the Education Secretary, is said to want to go farther by replacing GCSEs with O levels in English, maths and science.

This year 400 state schools entered pupils for IGCSEs, compared with 220 last year and 97 in 2010. The number of private schools entering students for IGCSEs rose to 500, from 350 last year and 302 two years ago.

The qualification has a linear structure, meaning that pupils take examinations at the end of the two-year course rather than completing it in “chunks” like GCSEs. It is offered by University of Cambridge International Examinations. According to its research, more than nine in ten teachers found IGCSE more rewarding to teach and two thirds said that it better prepared students for A levels. Overall, schools in the UK made 50,000 IGCSE entries this year.

David Hampstead, head of French at St Paul’s School, an independent boys’ school in London said: “We have always tried to teach beyond the syllabus and so the time taken up in the past by controlled assessment was a real hindrance.

“The IGCSE’s emphasis on conceptual knowledge and accuracy has also proved to be a far better basis for our students’ further study to A Level.”

By Nicola Woolcock, Education Correspondent, The Times. Click here to read the article © The Times