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Danger of ditching GCSEs

Private schools risk damaging the exams system by dropping GCSEs and A-levels in favour of tougher alternatives, the chairman of the Headmasters' and Headmistresses' Conference said this week.

On the eve of the HMC's annual meeting in Manchester, Andrew Boggis said schools should retain qualifications which still carry a "national currency". His comments come as dozens of independent schools are ditching GCSEs in favour of the international GCSE following concerns that exams fail to identify the brightest pupils and are over-reliant on coursework.

They see the International Baccalaureate and the Cambridge Pre-U, to be introduced in 2008, as attractive alternatives.

Mr Boggis, head of the pound;11,300-a-year Forest school, in north-east London, said: "I have often compared these exams to the Eton wall game. If they were really good, everyone would be doing them. For every school that announces they are converting to the IB, there will be 30 who consider it and chose to remain with the existing qualifications, but that's never a news story. I'm quite happy to say that we looked very carefully at the iGCSE but chose to maintain the status quo."

A-levels for top people, 9

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