When IGCSEs were removed from performance tables, many boards responded by withdrawing them from Ofqual regulation. By August 2020, none will be regulated. However, some people think that Ofqual and the other UK regulators should take a more proactive role, assuring the broad comparability of all qualifications.
“[The regulators] need to agree on some broad measures of equivalence, which are subject to external scrutiny, so that people can have faith,” says Ed Elliott, headmaster of The Perse School in Cambridge.
Malcolm Trobe, deputy general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders and a former chief examiner, agrees. “All external examinations should in some way be regulated to ensure there is a consistency of standards,” he says.
Some people think the controversy over IGCSEs is in part a result of the bewildering set of changes which the English education system has gone through in recent years. So, as the new GCSE matures, concerns may abate anyway.
Shaun Fenton, head of Reigate Grammar School and chair of the Headmasters’ and Headmistresses’ Conference, which represents elite private schools, notes: “Across the profession, whatever school – state and independent – there is huge anxiety about the impact of the roll-out of the new exam reforms.
“No one quite knows what’s going to happen, and the accountability, particularly in the state sector, drives behaviours – it costs people their careers. No wonder people are thrashing around to see if they can make sense of a context of exam reform that, frankly, most people would say has been done too quickly.
“In that context, there’s probably going to be people looking to point the finger and justify their own position.”