IGCSE exams to go ahead in UK and international schools

Exams boards Pearson and Cambridge confirm they will set papers for students to sit under exam conditions

Tes Reporter

Coronavirus: IGCSE exams to go ahead in UK and international schools

Students at international schools and UK private schools that use the IGCSE exams should be able to sit them as normal this year, it has been confirmed.

Exam board Cambridge Assessment International Education said that having assessed the situation, it felt it was possible to continue with exams for students in all locations.

We share the belief of our schools that exams remain the fairest and most accurate way of assessing student achievement. Therefore, we continue to prepare for the March and June series to go ahead," it said on its website.

“We will continue to monitor the situation for the March and June 2021 series very closely and keep our schools informed, but we expect exams to continue as planned where it is permitted and safe. Our priority continues to be to keep students safe and to make sure they can progress with their education.”

A spokesperson for the company added: "We are engaging with our UK schools and schools organisations, and we will be working closely with the UK Department for Education and Ofqual. We will share more details as soon as possible.”

Pearson, meanwhile, also confirmed on its website that it intended for summer exams to go ahead.

"At this time, our intention is to run the May/June 2021 series for International GCSE, as planned. As above, schools should run exams in line with public health guidance."

"We appreciate that local circumstances can change at short notice. However, we hope that this provides the certainty you need to continue teaching and to support students in their preparation for exams."

The exam boards are able to set the exams as IGCSEs are not regulated by Ofqual, unlike other UK-specific examination boards.

IGCSEs going ahead: 'Yet another inconsistency'

The move will no doubt be welcomed by international schools – especially those that have fared better during the pandemic than other nations and where schooling has continued with more normality.  

However, David James, the deputy head of an independent school in London, said the move could create more problems for schools and students in the months ahead in the UK.

"Pearson and CAIE seem to be repeating the same strategy they adopted during the last lockdown: namely, respond late, say it's business as usual, and then, in due course, cancel the exams," he told Tes.

"It seems they are prioritising international markets over the UK, but they are unable to answer simple questions: such as, what do candidates do if they have to self-isolate?

"What do centres do if they don't have enough invigilators because of illness? This reluctance to listen to schools, again, puts unnecessary pressure on the students. Greater clarity is needed right now."

Julie McCulloch, director of policy at the Association of School and College Leaders, said it was a strange situation for this diversion of plans between GCSE and IGCSE but the rationale was understandable.

“It is obviously an odd situation that GCSE exams have been cancelled in England, while International GCSE exams are expected to go ahead," she said.

"However, we can understand the need for a common approach to an international qualification, given that the restrictions and impact of coronavirus will vary greatly between countries. Of course, it creates yet another inconsistency, but none of this is easy.”

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