Government drops diploma plans – but opts for IGCSEs

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The Independent Online

Diplomas which were designed by Labour to replace GCSEs and A-levels have been dropped, the Government announced yesterday.

The Department for Education (DofE) also announced state schools would be able to teach international GCSEs (IGCSEs) in core subjects such as English and maths from September. Education Secretary Michael Gove said the Government wanted to give schools greater freedom over the qualifications they offered.

"Academic" diplomas in humanities, science and languages were due to be introduced in September 2011. The Conservatives originally mooted the idea of scrapping the three qualifications last year. Business leaders also previously raised concerns about the subject-based diplomas, which combine work experience with academic learning.

IGCSEs are favoured by many private schools which believe they are tougher qualifications than traditional GCSEs. A number of top-performing secondaries have expressed an interest in offering these exams, the DfE said. The previous government last year rejected an application by the Cambridge International Examinations board for a range of IGCSEs to be allowed in state secondary schools, saying the qualifications failed to meet the requirements of the curriculum.

Schools minister Nick Gibb said: "We will devote our efforts to making sure our existing qualifications are rigorous, challenging and properly prepare young people for life, work and study."

But Dr John Dunford, general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders (ASCL), said: "Introducing IGCSEs more widely will increase uncertainty for parents, pupils, employers and the public. Exams are not products on a store shelf. They determine young people's futures and should not be subject to market pressures."