ISC statement: Publication of the Department for Education’s report about the comparability of GCSEs and International GCSEs

Posted on: 05 Nov 2019
Posted by: Julie Robinson

Julie Robinson, chief executive of the Independent Schools Council, responds to a report by the Department for Education about the comparability of GCSEs and International GCSEs in England.

Julie Robinson, ISC chief executive said: “When independent schools chose IGCSEs (between 2007-2012), the qualifications were clearly tougher than standard GCSEs in terms of syllabuses and exam questions. These examinations were chosen for the rigour and quality of each syllabus and that continues to be the case today.

“We completely agree that grading standards between the IGCSE and GCSE should be the same. After 2016, we sought assurances from the two exam boards that this was the case and they provided that very reassurance, so schools continued using IGCSEs in good faith. If there is evidence that the grading standards of IGCSEs and GCSEs are not aligned then exam boards should be instructed to align them, as we requested some years ago.

“IGCSEs are taken by above-average ability pupils so the good grades that have been achieved at IGCSE to date have not provided us with clear indicators of grade comparability. Universities are happy with IGCSEs, which many of their international students take among the 70+ other qualifications that universities accept, all of slightly differing standards.

“The majority of exams taken by independent school pupils at age 16 are in fact standard GCSEs, not IGCSEs. And for university entrance it is A-level grades which matter, more than GCSEs.”