Schools entering students in double GCSEs in same subject to help grades

Hundreds of state schools are entering pupils into two different types of GCSE qualification in the same subject in an attempt to guarantee better grades and improve their overall position in league tables, according to schools and an educational organisation which has pioneered the tactic. This is from the Guardian…

The notion, promoted by the Performance in Excellence or PiXL club, which charges schools £3,500 a year for tips on improving GCSE results, involves putting students forwards for a standard English GCSE and also the International GCSE, or IGCSE in English, the Times Educational Supplement reported. The latter has a more traditional, exam-based format and has previously been used by international schools and some independent schools.

About 400 secondary schools are members of PiXL. The group’s chairman, Sir John Rowling, formerly headteacher at the highly-performing Nunthorpe comprehensive school in Middlesbrough, told the TES that 80% of member schools were entering some pupils for both exams simultaneously.

Schools were aware of the potential impact on league tables, he said. “Most heads thought the IGCSE was just for independent schools and that it didn’t count towards league tables, but we have studied it very carefully and we’ve found it can be very appropriate for some state school students.”

This was particularly the case given the chaos over the grading of this year’s GCSE English exams, he said.

“It has assumed new importance because of the messing around with grade boundaries this summer. Teachers work like slaves all year then, at the end of it, get messed about. They invest all that effort, just to be scuppered at the last minute, so I say if there is another alternative then use it.”

One school which joined PiXL told the TES there was an “element of game playing” in putting pupils up for both exams. Dan Morrow, head of the secondary school at Oasis Academy Shirley Park in Croydon, south of London, said pupils went for both qualifications this year for the first time to “ensure they didn’t miss out on a qualification”.

A Department for Education spokeswoman criticised the tactic. She told the TES: “This is clearly not in the best interests of pupils. Schools must only enter students for the qualifications that are right for them, not for the cynical reasons this suggests.”

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