Page last updated at 13:46 GMT, Thursday, 5 March 2009

Top private school to drop GCSEs

From September the school will no longer offer the GCSE qualification

A top private boys' school in Manchester is dropping GCSEs because the courses are not challenging enough.

Manchester Grammar School (MGS) will follow the International GCSE (IGCSE) from September, it has revealed.

Dr Christopher Ray, headmaster at the 9,000-a-year school, said: "Our boys are at their best and thrive when faced with serious challenges."

In 2005 the school axed GSCE maths in favour of the IGCSE equivalent, which is predominately exam based.

The school currently offers the IGCSE in biology, chemistry and physics.

English language, English literature, history, religious studies, modern foreign languages, Latin and music will be available to study at the start of the next academic year.

We do not agree that the IGCSE is in any way superior to the GCSE
England's Schools Minister, Jim Knight

Geography will start in 2010.

The move has been prompted by the government's decision to change the format of the current GCSE qualifications, which are to become modular, with in-class projects replacing coursework in many subjects.

Dr Ray said the changes were "cumbersome and time-consuming" and would "restrict the ability of schools like MGS to provide inspirational teaching for the most able pupils".

He said: "I have no doubt that these changes will bring some benefits for average and lower ability pupils but I do not believe the changes are in the best interests of MGS boys."

The IGCSE comprises of end of year exams and will provide a "more stimulating programme for our able boys," added Dr Ray.

England's Schools Minister, Jim Knight, said GCSEs are a high quality qualification.

He said: "We do not agree that the IGCSE is in any way superior to the GCSE.

'Richer families'

"It is aimed at international students and therefore does not major on English cultural or historical concepts and achievements.

"It does not include compulsory study of Shakespeare or any other classic author - which are protected in the national curriculum. Nor does the maths IGCSE have a basic non-calculator test."

"Most GCSEs contain coursework and in the new specifications this will be replaced by controlled assessment. IGCSEs contain neither coursework nor controlled assessment.

"Independent schools can choose to put pupils in for IGCSE. It is their choice. Any change is a very small proportion compared to the millions who GCSEs taken each year.

"It doesn't change the fact that GCSEs are a high quality qualification, well-recognised by employers and higher education."

Shadow schools secretary Michael Gove said: "We have a major problem with schools abandoning the GCSE because the government has devalued it.

"Increasingly only children from richer families can take high quality exams.

"I have repeatedly asked the government to change the rules so that all children can take high quality international exams."

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