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GCSE’s, iGCSE’s, EBacc’s and certificates

In the last few years there have been significant changes to qualifications at GCSE and A Level . The content has been regularly reviewed and the format of exams and gradings  has changed to include an A* for A Levels. The modular exam route for both GCSE’s and AS and A2 levels has increased in popularity – a subject is assessed in smaller chunks and modules can be sat again (resits) to improve grades. These changes have fed debate about academic rigour leading to a review of these qualifications  and a limit on the number of resits allowed.

One of the qualifications increasing in popularity within the private sector is the iGCSE (international GCSE). They were first developed by the University of Cambridge International Examinations for use in overseas countries (including the UK) who wanted  a qualification that was viewed as academically rigorous. The iGCSE is often compared to O Levels rather than the more modern GCSEs and recent changes to traditional GCSEs in science, maths and English have meant even more independent schools are switching to iGCSEs.

iGCSEs are taken at the same age as conventional GCSEs across 500 schools in the UK but to date are not accredited for use in state schools. Edexcel wanted to bring the success of the internationally recognised iGCSE to  UK state schools and so they have introduced ‘certificates’ equivalent to the iGCSE in Maths, English Language and English Literature (with Science to follow). Cambridge offer iGCSEs in 18 subjects including languages.

As we’ve discussed before we think languages can open up fantastic new career possibilities for young people and we see the introduction of advanced standards as a great move forward for education in the UK. It does seem a shame to have titled the state iGCSE equivalent as a certificate, in this country we get certificates for running races and swimming a length and so it seems an inappropriate name for a qualification that holds itself to these higher standards.

In January this year, for the first time, school performance league tables also included the percentage of students who received the new EBacc qualification (English Baccalaureate).  This is awarded to students who have passed GCSE in Maths, English, Science, a language, geography or history at grade A*-C.  The EBacc was originally introduced to encourage children from low income neighbourhoods to take more traditional subjects, enabling them to gain places at top universities.  Unfortunately recent evidence suggests this is not the case – an Education Committee inquiry into the EBacc found no evidence that the flagship reform will improve the life chances of low-income pupils. With next year bringing £9,000 a year fees for some universities it seems backwards to introduce a qualification that might help a child obtain a university place that they don’t have the financial means to take up.

We have tutors who work in both state and independent schools and are familiar with the requirements for the iGCSE and what is needed to improve grades for the EBacc. Alison, our MD, recently wrote a Chemistry iGCSE course.

If you’d like to know more about iGCSEs, the EBacc and tutoring in these subjects including languages, maths and English (across Manchester and Cheshire including areas such as Wilmslow) then call us on 01625 531360.


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