One of the country's leading state grammar schools is to encourage pupils to switch from A-levels to the International Baccalaureate (IB) exam this September.
Nicole Chapman, headmistress of Chelmsford County High School for Girls in Essex, said: "It's a better qualification as it's a broader curriculum and is just as rigorous as A-levels."
Yesterday her school registered an average exam points score of 497.8 – the equivalent of four A-grade passes for every pupil. But Mrs Chapman, who has been teaching for 35 years, said the IB – for which pupils study seven subject areas instead of the traditional three – was a better preparation for university. She said the exams were also more challenging as there were no resits available to boost scores.
"There's evidence to show that those who do the IB are less likely to drop out of university," she said. "It encourages them to be better thinkers, which should be the aim of education – not just being able to pass exams. In the future, we will be definitely be encouraging more girls to do this."
Mrs Chapman added: "We're starting to encourage more girls to do the IB. The take-up is currently low, as it's new to the school and girls and parents tend to be quite conservative." Her school has often led the national exam performance tables for state schools.
Mrs Chapman's comments come as Hockerill Anglo-European school in Hertfordshire, which also favours the IB exam over A-levels, topped the table for non-selective state schools at A-level. Its pupils notched up an average exam points score of 502 – beating most selective grammar schools as well as comprehensives. The number of state schools opting for the IB has more than doubled in the past decade.