The Education Secretary Michael Gove is urging all state schools to consider ditching GCSEs in advance of the introduction of his new English Baccalaureate in three years' time.
Mr Gove, pictured, said he would encourage all schools to look at whether the IGCSE exam – taken by many of the country's independent schools – would be an "appropriate preparation" for his new qualification.
The past few years have seen a massive growth in the IGCSE - which is designed on traditional O-level lines with the emphasis on end of course examinations as will be the case with the EBacc. It was launched when many Commonwealth countries decided they did not want to dispense with O-levels when the GCSE was introduced.
Take-up by UK schools in the past two years has more than doubled with 900 (400 state and 500 independent) now choosing it compared with just 399 (97 state and 302) in 2010.
Exam boards said the flight to the IGCSE was one of the reasons for the decline in performance this year which saw the percentage of A* to C grade passes drop for the first time. Independent schools reported that a quarter of their candidates took the IGCSE this year compared with 16.7 per cent in 2011. Russell Hobby, general secretary of the National Association of Head Teachers, said: "I think there is already quite a flow of schools looking at the IGCSE. They have lost a lot of confidence in the UK system and its regulation."
The flight from the GCSE had been caused not only by Mr Gove's proposed new EBacc but also the furore over the marking of this year's English GCSE when thousands of pupils were given lower grades after exam boards increased the pass mark for a C grade at the last minute. As a result, many have been unable to take up provisionally promised sixth-form and college places. Mr Hobby said one of the attractions of the IGCSE was that "it was not subject to political interference" as it was not the Government's national exam for 16-year-olds.
More than 2,000 Welsh candidates have been awarded improved GCSE grades in English as a result of the decision to order a review of their exams.Reuse content