Posted: 1 May, 2013

“To IGCSE” or “Not To IGCSE?”

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According to a recent article in the Daily Telegraph, the number of schools opting for the English IGCSE exam this summer has almost tripled – from 34,800 to 93,300.  Education Secretary Michael Gove is now planning a major shake-up of the GCSE which could bring it more into line with its international rival.

At Putney High School we have chosen to move to IGCSEs in English Language, English Literature and Mathematics for our current Year 10 (to be examined in summer 2014). We made this move because we felt that the examination system at GCSE (especially in English) was far too complicated.

During the two English GCSE courses, students seemed to be taking ‘controlled assessment’ after ‘controlled assessment’ with little time or opportunity to explore topics, texts or language use in more detail. It has been a stressful two-year English course for any Year 11 students about to go on study leave; not to mention the difficulties for staff in ensuring all controlled assessment work represents the students’ true ability. Year 10 students who are currently following the IGCSE courses in English in contrast seem far more relaxed about the process, well prepared and able to explore and enjoy the wonders of the English Language.

Again, in Mathematics, while the course is more challenging, the way it is examined is more straightforward. There are fewer questions put on the paper seemingly only to trick students into answering incorrectly. The move has been welcomed by staff in the Mathematics department as they are sure that girls are being given a rigorous grounding in the subject and have every opportunity to show just what they are capable of.

We are not surprised that parents and girls share our enthusiasm for these IGCSE courses.

That is not to say, however, that we would wish to make a full scale move across to IGCSE. At Putney we appreciate the flexibility of being able to offer the courses which are most appropriate for our girls, which in some cases is the IGCSE and in others, is the GCSE.

Geography is one such example. As part of our continual efforts to ensure we offer the very best practice, we explored the idea of the IGCSE, particularly to see whether it might provide a better way to assess fieldwork, a fantastic element of geography but one which currently is not necessarily assessed in the best way by any course provider. While we will continue to follow the development of IGCSE courses, we are staying with the traditional GCSE. The core topics across the examination papers suit our students and give a sound grounding for the further challenges of the A-Level syllabus.

We thoroughly look forward to summer 2014 for all our results, not least our first batch of IGCSEs.

Miss Oona Carlin, Deputy Head Academic

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