15th March 2017
UK high school exam reform could create stumbling blocks for international students
Comprehensive reforms to the UK’s national GCSE and A Level exams could create stumbling blocks for international high school students and could even mean some come to the UK later, independent schools have warned.
Reforms to the exams, taken in years 11 and 13, were first introduced in September 2015 but are being phased in incrementally. The reformed syllabuses introduce new and more demanding content, with a greater reliance on analytical skills, and abolish the modular format used up to now.
So significant are the challenges for international students in the early tranches of these reforms, one delegate at the British Association for Independent Schools with International Students conference last week argued that “many more [students] will than in the past become disenfranchised with that system”.
The move could also enhance encroaching competition from the private pathway sector, the delegate said. Students may drop out at the end of year 12 after finding their first year of A Level study “challenging or not just for them and just move on” to a foundation course instead, he predicted, which would allow them to enter university without having taken A level exams.
In fact, both dedicated foundation providers and independent high schools could capitalise on the growing demand for new pathways into university.
Independent special schools are cost effective
Claire Dorer, Chief Executive of the National Association of Independent Schools and Non-Maintained Special Schools explains it is in everyone’s interests to get SEND support right and for many pupils that means a place in an independent special school.
In 2012, the National Association of Independent Schools and Non-Maintained Special Schools (NASS) commissioned accountancy firm Baker Tilly to explore comparative costs in different settings. The report concluded that if you compare like-for-like costs, including transport, therapies and short breaks, placements in NMISS for some children can be cheaper than equivalent local authority packages of support.
For example, weekly boarding in a NMISS was found to be £22,000 a year cheaper than equivalent local authority packages of support.
This makes some sense when you consider that most NMISS were set up to meet mainly complex and low-incidence SEND, areas in which some schools struggle. Tribunals have consistently supported the argument that when we compare costs we must look at the cost to the whole public purse, not simply compare teaching and learning costs in a maintained school with the full fee in NMISS. On this basis, the cost differential between NMISS and local authority provision is rarely as extreme as it is believed to be.
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