Name change mooted to ease IGCSE impasse

A new name for the international GCSE could resolve the dispute over official recognition of the exam, which is increasingly favoured by independent schools.

The TES understands that an examination board is in talks about dropping GCSE from the title of the traditional O-level style exam, which would remove a major obstacle to regulators accrediting it.

The independent school lobby has suggested it would be happy for the qualification to have a title such as the International Certificate of Education if it paved the way for the exam to appear in official league tables. The Qualifications and Curriculum Authority would not comment but said that recognising the IGCSE with its current name could cause confusion as it does not meet the same criteria as standard GCSEs.

Geoff Lucas, general secretary of the Headmasters' and Headmistresses'

Conference, which represents 250 leading independent schools, said: "From our point of view the name is important, but recognition is more important.

"If a new name got the QCA and ministers off the hook and allowed them to solve this problem then, providing it had a certain cachet, I think our members would be in favour." The news comes as figures released to Parliament dramatically illustrate how independent schools' league table positions may have been affected by the qualification.

The Department for Education and Skills' statistics compared the percentage of state and independent school pupils achieving at least five A*-C GCSEs including English and maths.

At first glance, they suggest that private school results have plummeted as those of state schools have risen. Between 1997 and 2006 the state figure rose from 34 to 43 per cent while the independent figure dropped from 82 to 69.

But independent school representatives say they actually illustrate the sharp rise in the popularity of the IGCSE, which has been available internationally since the abolition of the O-level in 1988 and is now offered by more than 200 British fee-charging schools.

"This shows the stupidity of ignoring exams that are as good if not better than other GCSEs because it just makes the figures look ridiculous," said Sam Freedman, Independent Schools Council head of research.

A consultation on whether the international exam should be recognised by the QCA closed in February. The Government has yet to announce the result.

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