EXAM APARTHEID THREATENED
Over this summer, a new division between state and private schools threatens to open up. There are already too many, but exam reform at 16 plus may see the parting of the ways. For once it is not just the consequence of having more money in a time of cutbacks, but government policy aimed at creating a new exam system. The private schools are increasingly likely to reject the Gove agenda and head for the International GCSE (IGCSE) leaving the allegedly superior Goveite GCSE to sink or swim.
It is however not inevitable that this split will take place, as Gove placed IGCSE and GCSE on the same footing and despite recent changes this is still the case. On 5th May the TES published an article I wrote pointing out the problems, and this can be found here
As it is clear that state schools doing GCSE and private schools doing IGCSE, which they are doing in larger and larger numbers would create educational apartheid, it is important that teachers in the state sector realise they can still do the IGCSE. The Gove reform has not yet been repealed. The new IGCSEs in maths and English have been approved by OFQUAL and unless there is a suprising change of policy by the DfE are still going to be funded. New IGCSEs, with the 9-1 grading system, and the old IGCSEs while they exist, can still be done in state schools.
The problem is performance tables. As media reported in January without understanding the implications, Nick Gibb banned IGCSE from the performance tables, so schools like Westminster and St Paul's had no successes. This did not matter to them. It mattered to the state schools which got reported by media as having no successes as the tables reported 0% pass rates. The danger is that this will make teachers in state schools do the GCSE even if they think IGCSE is better for their pupils.
Teachers need to opt for the courses that are best for their pupils, whether IGCSE or GCSE. For the maths and English courses starting in September, approved and funded at IGCSE, the question of whether they will be in performance tables in January 2018 is irrelevant. The courses which will be first examined in Summer 2017 will count for entrance into sixth form and university, and IGCSE will be just as relevant as GCSE. In fact the Gibb edict could change and performance tables include IGCSE, though it would appear to be unlikely the new Tory government will do this unless under intense pressure from outside.
Whether this will happen is impossible to tell. But it is clear that if state schools opt for GCSE maths and English this summer, and private schools opt for IGCSE, we have the beginning of educational apartheid via exams. This danger must be addressed by teachers in the coming months.
Trevor Fisher12 05 15