More pupils taking international GCSEs

Books Pupils starting GCSE courses this autumn will mainly do exams at the end of two years

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More pupils in the UK are taking international GCSEs, figures from exam boards suggest.

In England, the increase has followed a lifting of a ban which stopped state schools from entering pupils for them.

The exams - known as IGCSEs - are taken at the end of two years - unlike many GCSEs, where students take exams in stages over two years.

Overall, UK schools made 50,000 IGCSE entries this year, this compares to the more than 5m GCSE entries last year.

From September, pupils in England starting GCSE courses will mostly take exams after two years.

In 2010, the coalition said state schools should be allowed to enter pupils for IGCSEs.

Until then, the qualifications could not be counted in school league tables.

Two exam boards which produce the qualifications are reporting increases in take-up.

Cambridge International Examinations says 400 state schools in the UK are now preparing pupils for IGCSEs, compared with 97 in 2010.

Among private schools, 500 are using IGCSEs, compared with 320 in 2010.

The Edexcel exam body also has IGCSEs and says the number of schools and colleges entering pupils for them in the UK more than doubled in the past two years, rising to just under 2,000.

'O-level style' exams

A spokesman for Pearson, Edexcel's parent company, said: "The continuing popularity of IGCSEs in this country and abroad supports our view that students should be able to choose the qualifications that suit their interests, ambitions and style of learning."

Peter Monteath, from Cambridge International Examinations, said: "The feedback we are getting from schools is that they like the flexibility of these syllabuses, which gives teachers more scope to explore different topics with students.

"Their linear structure also gives students space and time to study topics in-depth."

Some have voiced concern about the move away from modular exams, where students can revise particular topics for an exam rather than the whole syllabus.

The change applies to exams taken by pupils in England.

Education ministers in Northern Ireland and Wales are considering whether to follow England or keep existing styles of exam.

They recently wrote to Education Secretary Michael Gove to complain they were not consulted over leaked plans to make further changes to GCSEs for England - billed as a return to O-level-style exams.

The Welsh government is conducting a review of qualifications for teenagers and says it will make a decision after that is complete.


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  • Comment number 53.

    All this user's posts have been removed.Why?

  • rate this

    Comment number 52.

    '.. hardly any of the courses have coursework. This is a positive thing.'
    Couldn't disagree more.Continuous assessment during the year is the only way to learn something properly.Otherwise students cram the night before an exam & forget everything an hour after the exam. Learning anything is repetition!! The more times they get examined the better the chance they'll actually learn something

  • rate this

    Comment number 51.

    Good - less likelyhood of UK meddling.
    "Our politicians" fear an educated electorate.

  • rate this

    Comment number 50.

    44 angelil60

    ' ... hardly any of the courses have coursework. This is a positive thing.'

    Absolutely. When I took O level maths over forty years ago I was hopeless at geometry. So I learned the proofs of three theorems by heart ... no understanding... and there were questions with plenty of marks each asking for the proof of two of the three. Result .. a pretty good O level maths pass.

  • rate this

    Comment number 49.

    #43 - If you're just going to keep attacking me rather than my point, that if parents paid a contribution towards their child's schooling they would take a more active interest in it, then we're not going to get anywhere.

    The taxpayer did fund my schooling, although being a child I didn't consent to this. The taxpayer also paid for luxuries through child benefit, which we are now means testing.

  • Comment number 48.

    All this user's posts have been removed.Why?

  • rate this

    Comment number 47.

    #41 Is that State education or does it also include £30K Eton fees skewing the mean? I went to school 20 years ago, in Scotland. Scottish public spending used to lag behind English quite a bit... that was one of the reasons the Barnett formula was introduced.

    On a similar subject as I pay £10K/yr direct taxes & have no kids I'm retrospectively paying my own education costs back too!

  • rate this

    Comment number 46.

    The alarm bells should have rung when they introduced the A* grade.

    Why was a A+ no longer good enough given we were also plummeting down the league table of international education performance?

    This is another Labour mess but this time Ed Balls can't blame it all on the bankers or the global economy.

  • Comment number 45.

    All this user's posts have been removed.Why?

  • rate this

    Comment number 44.

    As someone who has experience of both the GCSE and the IGCSE (I currently teach the latter and have marked GCSE exams, as well as sitting them myself), I welcome this move. The IGCSE (for the person who asked) mostly relies upon final exams at the end of the course. There are no modular exams and hardly any of the courses have coursework. This is a positive thing.

  • Comment number 43.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • rate this

    Comment number 42.

    Why can't people just praise students for doing well rather than continually trotting out the line that exams are too easy? I suspect that if most people posting on here sat the papers faced by students, they would fail too. And yes, I would include myself in that too.

  • rate this

    Comment number 41.

    #38 - I said £6000 because that's the average cost of education per pupil [Source: BBC News Wales-England school funding gap is £604 per pupil]. I find it very odd that your school got 1/6 th of the average but I feel if parents were paying directly these issues would be more easily addressed.

    #39 - No. The government paid my PARENTS, not me, since it was my parents responsibility to educate me

  • Comment number 40.

    All this user's posts have been removed.Why?

  • rate this

    Comment number 39.


    Like the taxpayer paid for YOUR education.

    I think it's a bloody great cheek people like you are effectively saying ''right, I've had my free meal, now I'm not paying for anyone else to have one''

  • rate this

    Comment number 38.

    #37 Maybe YOUR education cost £6K a year. My school got £1300 per pupil because it wasn't in a 'deprived' area. As my dad was an NHS consultant at the time I'm fairly certain he was paying at least that in tax 'i.e paying for his childs education'.

  • rate this

    Comment number 37.

    @Name Number 6 #32. As sensible a policy as that is, it's a shame its unpopularity will stop it from becoming reality. Parents generally have absolutely no appreciation that £6000 of taxpayers' money is being used to educate their child every year; that's not to say parents don't care about their child's education - they don't care about school at a level which is proportionate to its cost.

  • Comment number 36.

    All this user's posts have been removed.Why?

  • rate this

    Comment number 35.

    Reality check please. In 1950s children had to read books, listen to the radio etc. - as there was nothing else. Now we have excess MEDIA. You won't be able to stop it, it's the price we are paying for the Internet, games machines, computers etc. The trick will be not to rely on exam results, but to find a new way to measure personality, success and academic excellence - any ideas?

  • rate this

    Comment number 34.

    @28 A fabulous scheme with one major flaw.....'exchange'. Far better to pack 'em up..send 'em off..period. Also, if parents' were made responsible for their own little miracles' education it'd mean one of them would be at home..unemployment would be solved overnight. Perfect.....


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