State schools teach IGCSEs in secret

4th December 2009 at 00:00
The TES finds at least 10 secondaries are coaching for banned exams during lunch and after school

State schools are quietly continuing to teach pupils for IGCSE qualifications banned by the Government and plan to have them privately entered for the prohibited exams, The TES has learnt.

Last month ministers said they would not fund state schools for the O-level style exams, offered by 90 per cent of top independent schools, in the core curriculum subjects of English, maths and science.

They claimed the IGCSEs would lead to pupils missing out "vital" parts of the curriculum such as Shakespeare.

But The TES has learnt that at least 10 state schools have decided to carry on regardless. They are teaching pupils for the banned IGCSEs during lunchtimes and after school, and will then help the pupils enter for the exams privately at a different centre.

University of Cambridge International Examinations (CIE), the exam board offering the IGCSE, has confirmed that the practice is taking place.

Department for Children, Schools and Families officials have already intervened in one state secondary to stop IGCSEs being taught.

David Laws, Liberal Democrat education spokesman, said: "The fact that schools are now offering IGCSEs outside of normal lessons demonstrates how desperate they are to give pupils the chance to gain these qualifications.

"It is ridiculous that schools have to take these steps, simply because Ed Balls is stubbornly refusing to fund them."

Parkside Community College in Cambridge is not one of the schools offering illicit extra curricular IGCSE lessons. But it does plan to continue to base its science teaching on the international qualification, with extra sections added to the syllabus from the national curriculum.

Andrew Hutchinson, headteacher, fears that some parents may take it upon themselves to enter his pupils for IGCSEs privately.

"It is possible some might," he said. "That is a parental decision but it would not be our advice for them to do that."

The school decided to start teaching the science IGCSE syllabus in September 2008 on the advice of governors who are Cambridge University research scientists.

"They felt the course was a much better preparation for studying science in higher education," Mr Hutchinson said.

After informal conversations with the exam board, DCSF and Qualifications and Curriculum Development Agency, he had expected the IGCSE to be accredited for use in time for next summer's exams.

Last month the Government took the school and board by surprise, saying approval would be restricted to nine IGCSEs that do not cover the core curriculum.

A DCSF spokesperson said: "It is schools' responsibility not to offer courses leading to unapproved qualifications."

Lord Drayson hits out, page 7.

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