Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Top School Will Abandon GCSEs in Some Subjects; HEAD'S BID TO STRETCH THE BRIGHTEST PUPILS BY SWITCHING THEM TO AS-LEVELS

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Top School Will Abandon GCSEs in Some Subjects; HEAD'S BID TO STRETCH THE BRIGHTEST PUPILS BY SWITCHING THEM TO AS-LEVELS

Article excerpt

Byline: TIM MILES

LONDON'S top school at GCSE plans to drop the qualification in some subjects next year for its brightest pupils.

Instead of taking GCSE in Maths, French, Computing and Music, the brightest 15-year-olds at Tiffin Girls School in Kingston, one of London's remaining grammar schools, will start two-year courses leading to AS-levels in those subjects.

The new policy, which has been encouraged by government officials, puts a further question mark over the future of the GCSE as a general qualification to suit all abilities. If adopted by other selective schools, the GCSE - designed 20 years ago to measure the ability of all children - could become a "second-class" qualification.

The exam's future is being further questioned because the Government is encouraging more pupils to stay on after age 16.

Eton College has announced that boys starting next year will no longer take the exam, after headteacher Tony Little described the accumulation of GCSE passes as like "Boy Scouts collecting badges".

And comments earlier this month from the head of the Government's exams regulator, Dr Ken Boston, appeared to give all state schools the green light to drop the exam.

Tiffin Girls' headteacher Pauline Cox said the decision to switch to AS-levels had been taken to "stretch" the brightest children at the school.

If successful, she said, it could be extended to other subjects.

The plan was a key element in the school's successful application to the Department for Education and Skills for specialist status and had been approved by officials.

"The GCSE is a good exam," said Ms Cox, "but if you are particularly able in certain areas, like maths or languages, we feel that the AS-level offers a more satisfying curriculum and gives them the opportunity to study in a lot more detail."

The 15-year-olds involved will start studying two-year AS-level courses in September, alongside GCSEs in other subjects. …

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