Birbalsingh says private schools want to scrap GCSEs to inflate grades

  • 18th September 2023

Katharine Birbalsingh, head of Michaela Community School in Northwest London and known as Britain’s strictest headteacher, says private schools are scrapping GCSEs because “they are failing to meet the standards they should”¸ The Telegraph has reported.

Speaking to BBC Radio 4’s Today programme, Birbalsingh said: “If you do not perform at GCSE, then that is why they are doing this. Because over Covid, we learned what teacher bias does, about how the grades are then inflated. In particular, in the private sector, the grade sevens in the private sector went from 46% to 61%.

“And this move will allow them to do exactly the same thing again, which will advantage richer pupils, the pupils that can afford £25,000 a year over the normal kids [at] state schools. And they will then get the jobs and get the positions of authority out there, having not achieved any kind of national standard.

“And this is the private schools pushing through an agenda, because they are failing to meet the standards that they should do for their pupils that is really important to note. People think that they are, but they are highly selective and they are not coming out with those nines or the sevens frankly for their pupils.

“And now they’re saying what we need to do is create our own exams because they are not performing at the level that they should do at GCSE level.”

Latymer Upper School, a private school in Hammersmith, west London, recently announced it is dropping all GCSEs apart from English and maths and creating its own qualifications.

Latymer’s deputy head Ian Emerson said that GCSEs “remain narrow and are marked according to rigid and limiting mark schemes”.

He said: “They reward rote learning rather than deeper, more original thinking. And they do not effectively teach students the core skills which are sought after by employers in the modern workplace.” The school followed Bedales, a private school in Hampshire, which plans to move to its own ‘Bedales Assessed Courses’ in most subjects.

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