Scores of schools are poised to opt for qualifications outside of mainstream A-levels and 14-19 diplomas over the next two years, The TES can reveal.
The number offering the International Baccalaureate (IB) will more than double to 300 over the next 18 months, a headteacher who sits on the qualification's board of governors predicted this week.
Meanwhile, the exam board which has developed the new Cambridge Pre-U - an alternative to A-levels - expects 30 schools to offer it to students by 2009.
Both these courses are designed in a more traditional format, with all written exams taken at the end of Year 13, rather than staggered over the course through modules, as A-levels are. The Pre-U also involves a research study, and the IB a 4,000-word essay.
Ian Andain, head of Broadgreen High in Liverpool, made the IB prediction after ministers last week went back on a promise to fund all local authorities to offer the course.
Mr Andain said this would make little difference to eventual take-up. He said that in recent months the International Baccalaureate Organisation, which runs the course, had received 90 applications from schools. More than 100 others had submitted provisional expressions of interest. Most of those schools would be offering the IB from September 2009, meaning the organisation was confident the 300 figure would be reached. Most of the growth will come from the state sector, said Mr Andain. Currently 125 schools in the UK offer the diploma. Meanwhile, 30 schools are lined up to offer the Cambridge Pre-U by 2009, including Eton College, the pound;26,000-a-year boarding school in Berkshire, and Tower Hamlets College, a further education college in east London.
Cambridge International Examinations, which has developed the Pre-U with teachers, said another 100 schools were involved with trialling it, or had booked for training sessions. Both the IB and the Pre-U will be included in a Government review of qualifications in 2013, which will consider the need for these exams and A-levels alongside the new 14-19 diploma courses.