Magazine article Times Educational Supplement

IGCSE Grade Drop Leaves Schools 'In Utter Shock'

Magazine article Times Educational Supplement

IGCSE Grade Drop Leaves Schools 'In Utter Shock'

Article excerpt

Heads demand investigation into English language results

Schools have warned of "devastating" consequences after their students' results plummeted in an English language IGCSE taken by almost a third of 16-year-olds in England this year.

Headteachers told TES that they were in a state of "utter shock" at the results, published last week ahead of yesterday's main GCSE results. They fear the outcome could unfairly threaten jobs and lead to forced takeovers of their schools.

In some cases, the proportion of students gaining an A*-to-C grade is almost 20 percentage points below expectations. The falls have prompted calls for an investigation into the results.

This year's grade boundaries on some exam papers were higher than last year's, but Cambridge International Examinations, which runs the qualification, says this was because some of the questions were easier.

Large numbers of state schools switched to what began as an international qualification this summer. The number of entries for the English language IGCSE shot up by two-thirds, from 121,530 in 2014 to 201,858. It retains the coursework and speaking and listening assessments that have been scrapped from the English GCSE.

'Major concern'

Bill Watkin, operational director of the Schools, Students and Teachers Network (SSAT), told TES that dozens of academy headteachers had contacted him or used his organisation's forums to raise concerns about this year's results.

"Very experienced and successful schools have been surprised by the changes from what was predicted," he said. "It's clearly a major concern for them, in terms of the effect on young people and on schools' headline figures. It's a source of anxiety, particularly in the high-stakes accountability environment that schools are working in."

Mr Watkin said Cambridge's explanation, that boundaries had been changed to reflect the exam's level of difficulty, "does not match the experiences of headteachers". He called on the exam board to investigate what had happened.

Richard Thomas, executive director of the Association of Secondary Heads in Essex, told TES that several schools had contacted him because they were "alarmed" at their results.

He said he expected between 5 and 10 per cent of the schools that used the IGCSE this year to see a "significant drop" in the proportion of students receiving five GCSEs at grade A* to C including English and maths.

Schools with lower-ability intakes would be the worst affected, he said, because they had more students on the C-D grade borderline. He warned that the apparent raising of the bar this year would cause those students to miss out on the C grade. …

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