27th June 2018
Daily summary of the latest news and opinions from the world of independent education brought to you by Education Advisers...
IGCSEs remain tried and tested in year of upheaval
Shaun Fenton, HMC Chair Elect and Headmaster, Reigate Grammar School looks into the IGCSE debate.
Seeping into the national conversation about exams is the idea that the new GCSEs are harder than existing IGCSEs (international GCSEs) and thereby more worthwhile as a qualification. This is not only wrong but making such pronouncements when candidates were still sitting exams was unfair and undermining to children.
For a start, ICGSEs are taken by millions of students around the world, and Cambridge IGCSE is the world’s most popular international qualification for 14 to 16 year olds. It has been around for 25 years and experienced teachers – many in the independent sector – continue to choose them.
Indeed, aspects of the Government’s reform of GCSEs were inspired in the first place by the strengths of IGCSE. Here’s why.
IGCSEs have a long track record of ably preparing students for A levels and higher education. They have satisfied the criteria that I and my colleagues hold dear - qualifications which engender a love of a subject, develop good learning habits and draw out the best in candidates. The exams allow for extra knowledge to be included and credited in the answers, thereby helping markers to differentiate the very best students and provide accurate rank ordering at the top end.
Meanwhile, the new GCSEs are brand new and so, literally, untested.
I am confident that when judiciously selected, schools will find both the new GCSEs and existing IGCSEs meet this challenge of supporting pupils as they advance towards A levels, BTECs, T levels or higher apprenticeships.
Young people have a great deal to worry about so let’s not scare them further with phantom fears. Pupils and employers can continue to have faith in IGCSEs and, in the future, with the new GCSEs.
A “no frills” low-cost private school has won government approval to open after a year-long delay.
The Independent Grammar School: Durham will now open in September for 65 primary pupils
The model, which will cost parents £52 a week, is the first of its kind in the UK. The founders hope to set up similar models in nearby areas to create an overall private school chain.
James Tooley, a professor of education policy at Newcastle University who has set up low-cost private schools across the globe, and Chris Gray, the founder and former principal of Grindon Hall Christian School in Sunderland, were jubilant after being forced to wait an extra year to get going.
With Gray as principal, four classroom teachers will deliver a “knowledge-rich, traditional” curriculum, focusing on “core subjects”. Mornings will consist of English and maths, and the afternoon will be devoted to the other subjects such as history, geography and science.
Music, drama and art will also be taught in afternoon lessons and as extracurricular activities.
Two teachers have been recruited but two more must be found before September. Half will be newly qualified teachers paid at the expected rate (around £25,000 pa) and the other two are intended to have more experience.
Asked how his school can run off £2,700 per pupil a year, below both the state-primary school average per pupil and the independent school average of more than £12,000 a year, Tooley said the pair had negotiated a good deal on the building lease.
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