GCSE reforms unfairly favour private school pupils

New exam reforms suggest that private school pupils gain a huge advantage when it comes to applying for universities and beyond

Parliamentary data suggests that private school pupils are being given a huge advantage when it comes to university places, thanks to them being allowed to take easier GCSE exams than those attending state schools, according to The Guardian.

State school pupils must undergo rigorous national GCSE testing, while private schools are able to use less demanding variants.

Labour MP, Lucy Powell, said that these GCSE reforms have created an unfair divide.

“State school pupils have been treated like guinea pigs while many independent schools have gamed the system,” she said, “insulating their institutions and their pupils against these changes, keeping the easier international GCSEs completely, or waiting for the new GCSEs to bed in before opting to enter their pupils on to these courses.”

The data shows that, in 2017-18, a private school pupil was 136 times more likely to sit an internationally-recognised GCSE (IGCSE) than a state counterpart.

A Department for Education spokesperson admitted that the new exams are tougher than the ones being widely used in private schools, saying: “International GCSEs have not been through the same regulatory approval and quality control as the new gold-standard GCSEs, which is why we no longer recognise international GCSEs in school performance tables.

“The new GCSE qualifications have been reformed to provide more rigorous content, so young people are taught the knowledge and skills they need for future study and employment.”

Geoff Barton, general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders, added that private schools are within their rights to choose the internationally-recognised exams, but that guidelines on the topic should be made more consistent.

“This issue highlights the mess the government has made of the qualification system. It’s only a few years ago that Michael Gove was encouraging headteachers to introduce IGCSEs into their schools because it was seen as a better qualification than the GCSE,” he said.

“This was followed by hasty rewriting of GCSEs, stripping coursework out of most of them, and placing huge amounts of emphasis on final examination papers. Now the government has removed most IGCSEs from school performance tables, which effectively means state school pupils can no longer take these qualifications.

“Year 11 pupils typically sit more than 30 hours of examinations in the new GCSE system, and we are very concerned about the impact on their mental health and wellbeing.”

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