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Volume 622: debated on Tuesday 28 February 2017


Tuesday 28 February 2017



English Language and English Literature GCSE-Level Examinations

The petition of residents of the UK,

Declares that in independent schools, pupils sitting iGCSEs in English Language and English Literature can still take advantage of 40% coursework as part of their final mark and have the option of sitting their examinations in January or June; and further that this is not comparable to state-funded schools and offers an unfair advantage to independent schools.

The petitioners therefore request that the House of Commons urges the Government to provide a level playing field in the rules applied to English Language and English Literature GCSE-level examinations in state-funded schools and independent schools, including provision for coursework and opportunities for sitting examinations.

And the petitioners remain, etc.—[Presented by Phil Wilson, Official Report, 1 February 2017; Vol. 620, c. 1145.]


Observations from the Minister for School Standards (Mr Nick Gibb):

The Government have extensively reformed GCSEs. We did so precisely to ensure that they are the gold standard qualification at 16 and in particular to bring them into line with expected standards in countries with the highest performing education systems. In reforming GCSEs we decided that internal assessment should be kept to a minimum and only used where there is a compelling case to do so. This allows more time for teaching and avoids the previous trend towards bite-size modules. Ensuring that the qualifications that our young people hold are rigorous and stand comparison with the best in the world is important to ensuring the widest opportunities in life and enable them to compete in a global economy.

England’s independent schools do remain free to offer any qualification, regulated or unregulated: this is consistent with the general freedom from Government control that the independent sector has.

In the future, however, only reformed GCSEs will count in school performance tables as each new GCSE subject is introduced; so while independent schools will remain free to offer alternative qualifications, the performance tables will only reflect achievement in reformed GCSEs.

We are confident that our reformed GCSEs will match the expectations set in the highest performing jurisdictions internationally, and will be rewarding for teachers and pupils. To include qualifications which do not have to go through the same extensive regulatory approval process in performance tables would undermine the rigour of the new GCSEs and the hard work of students and teachers.