Pupils flock to tougher GCSEs: Public schools back O Level-style tests

Daily Mail, 29.08.15, independent schools are shunning mainstream GCSEs amid fears they are not challenging enough, figures suggest. HMC Head John Claughton, Chief MaSter of King Edward's School in Birmingham is quoted.

This year has seen a 12 per cent rise in pupils at independent schools doing International GCSEs, which are based on the old O-level.

The rise comes after years of concerns that GCSE exams have been 'dumbed down', with grade inflation leaving universities unable to pinpoint the brightest students.

A total of 170,839 entries were made for IGCSEs this year, compared with 152,170 last year. Most private schools (446) had pupils taking at least one IGCSE, and three schools offered only IGCSEs.

John Claughton, chief master of King Edward's School in Birmingham, said almost all of his entries were for IGCSEs, which are based mainly on final exams rather than coursework.

'We believe the content of IGCSEs is more challenging,' he added. 'Our boys have done better in IGCSE precisely because it has asked harder questions and rewards understanding.

'Each year a new subject crosses over to IGCSE when it can and no one ever talks of going back.'

IGCSEs, which are set by UK exam boards, were originally intended for use abroad and are studied by pupils in more than 120 countries, including Singapore, Hong Kong and Canada.

Mainstream GCSEs are currently being reformed to make them tougher, with curriculums overhauled and coursework scaled back.

Figures last week showed more pupils from fee-paying schools are also shunning A-levels for alternatives such as the Pre-U and International Baccalaureate.

Susan Hamlyn, of the Good Schools Guide Advice Service, said: 'People are moving away from A-levels because they appear to have been devalued.'

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