Page last updated at 12:38 GMT, Friday, 5 February 2010

Academies 'want to teach IGCSEs'

By Hannah Richardson
BBC News education and family reporter

Exam candidates
State schools are not funded for IGCSEs

Academies in England are calling for the right to teach international qualifications - of the type increasingly used in private schools.

The Independent Academies Association (IAA) says so-called IGCSEs and the International Baccalaureate are more difficult than traditional GCSEs.

Chairman Mike Butler said all academies should be "free" to offer the qualifications where there is "demand".

The government has supported GCSEs in state schools rather than the IGCSE.

Though favoured by many independent schools, the IGCSE is not approved by the examinations regulator Ofqual for teaching in state schools.

Ministers therefore refuse to fund them for state secondary schools, including Academies, preferring to support traditional GCSEs, A-Levels and Diplomas.

And currently if Academies want to offer the International Baccalaureate they have to prove it would raise standards, seek permission from the Secretary of State and get their contractual arrangements with the government changed.

'Free and funded'

The DCSF said it was not aware of any Academy having made a request as yet, but the IAA said it had made representations on the issue.

In its new manifesto, the organisation said all schools should be "free and funded" to offer the IGCSE and the International Baccalaureate (IB) "where there is student demand or need".

"The government should be less prescriptive about other qualifications," it said.

'Made representation'

Speaking after its annual conference in central London, Mr Butler said several academies had told the association they wanted the chance to offer IGCSEs as they recognise them as a "robust" qualification.

"The general point we are making is academies should have the freedom and autonomy to determine the most appropriate curriculum for their cohort of students," he said.

"We have had several academies say that they want this (IGCSEs), so we have made the representation."

In November, the government rejected an application to approve IGCSE courses in a range of subjects, saying the qualifications failed to meet the requirements of the curriculum in these key subjects.

The Department for Children, Schools and Families said: "The GCSE is a robust, rigorous and proven qualification that is popular with schools, parents and pupils.

"It fully tests the curriculum and allows plenty of opportunity for pupils to be stretched and progress to A-level and advanced diploma, and on to university."

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