Scrap GCSEs, says private school head

In an article in the Evening Standard, 23/08/13, HMC Member Keith Budge, Head of Bedales School talks about the success of the school's own exams BACs (Bedales Assessed Courses) which were created as an alternative to GCSEs.

The headmaster of a school that scrapped traditional GCSEs has encouraged others to do the same in the wake of this year’s “turbulent” results.

Keith Budge of Bedales School  created his own exams, known as BACs (Bedales Assessed Courses), because GCSEs are “narrow and dry and do not stretch pupils”.

It is the first school to be recognised by university admissions body Ucas  as offering its own GCSE replacement qualification.

The £30,000-a-year Hampshire school, whose former pupils include singer Lily Allen and TV presenter Kirstie Allsopp, has been gradually shifting to the new exams and international GCSEs, and from next month the last traditional GCSEs in core subjects will be scrapped.

This comes after yesterday’s dramatic GCSE results which saw the biggest- ever fall in A* to C grades and a huge increase in the number of 15-year-olds taking exams. Employers warned that schools are in danger of becoming exam factories with GCSEs as “consolation prizes” for surviving months of continual testing and retesting.

Exam board heads warned that pupils are being pushed to take exams early and often, because there is such  pressure on them to meet official  Government targets.

Mr Budge said: “What is pretty chilling to anyone’s educational idealism is the sense that they might be part of some sort of political football. What I am interested in is really quite simple: trying to ensure students get the best educational opportunities both academically, extra-curricularly and pastorally.” He added: “I don’t find myself drawn into the politics of GCSEs.”

All Bedales students now take a combination of BACs and iGCSEs, the international version of GCSEs, at 16. From September just four GCSE courses will be offered in niche subjects including ancient Greek and Latin.

Mr Budge said that since introducing BACs, the school’s Oxbridge success rate has doubled and students are  better prepared for A-levels, making Bedales more attractive to the best and most inspirational teachers.

Bedales was able to launch its own qualifications because it is an independent school, and Mr Budge said he is surprised other private schools have not done the same in the wake of increasing distrust of GCSEs.

Bedales students take iGCSEs in core academic subjects, which are vital for university entrance., but take BACs in other subjects like ancient civilisations and classical music.

Click here to read the article © Evening Standard.