IGCSEs do not advantage privately educated students – HMC director
23rd August 2019
The executive director of the Headmasters’ and Headmistresses’ Conference (HMC), Mike Buchanan, has dismissed claims independent school students have an advantage with university admissions because of IGCSEs.
“Heads of HMC schools choose qualifications based on those which will best enhance the education provided to their pupils and not whether they might provide some competitive advantage to their pupils over others,” Buchanan said.
IGCSE is an alternate key stage 4 qualification provided by a number of exam boards.
Although all students are allowed to sit IGCSEs, few state schools enter their students for the qualifications because the results are excluded from state school performance tables. Last year, independent school students made up 75% of entrants to IGCSEs.
Some IGCSE courses are graded from 1 to 9 – in line with GCSE courses – but some use eight grades from A*-G. This inconsistency means the grades are not directly comparable, which some say bolster the chances of IGCSE students in qualifying for A-levels and degree courses.
Buchanan described the argument as “theoretical exceptions rather than the norm”.
Ofqual should up exam costs and make grade reviews free - to remove wealthy parents' advantage, say private school heads
Mike Buchanan, director of the Headmasters’ and Headmistress’ Conference (HMC) and former head of Ashford School in Kent, has said the cost of querying results should be funded by increasing the cost of exams across all subjects.
In a blog published by HMC this month, he said the current system – whereby parents pay for a review of grades – left some “victims” undetected with the wrong grades because of “inadequate funding”.
“I certainly think there should be a fairer way for candidates to query results, and the best way of doing that is to make it as easy as possible for all candidates, shifting the burden of costs away from candidates,” he said.
“Ofqual could do this by increasing the cost of exams slightly for all subjects."
Under the current system, the burden of cost for exam grade reviews is passed on to parents, Mr Buchanan said.
A spokesperson for Ofqual said: "The exam boards have sophisticated marker-monitoring systems in place and it is recognised that the quality of marking in England is among the best in the world.
"However, we are not complacent and we are committed to working with others in the sector to make marking in every subject the very best it can be."
They pointed out that schools are only charged for marking reviews if the grade remains unchanged, and that in 2018, just 1.1 per cent of all GCSE grades were changed following a review.
Ofqual also said that in over three-quarters of reviews last year, the original grade was upheld.