Private school pupils who take IGCSEs have a better chance of getting top marks, the exam watchdog has admitted.
Roger Taylor, the chair of Ofqual, said it is a “problem” that a far higher proportion of children get As and A*s in iGCSEs – the majority of which are taken by those at fee-paying schools – compared to their state educated peers who have sat the reformed GCSEs.
He told the education select committee that this is a “disturbing” issue within the exam system, and agreed that it reinforces the privileges of children whose families can afford to pay for private school fees.
Originally, private schools opted for iGCSEs as they saw GCSEs as too easy and not sufficient preparation for A level.
However, in a bid to make GCSEs more rigorous, the ministers overhauled the qualifications by removing most coursework and introducing a numerical grading system.
Earlier this year, research published by Education Datalab showed that two thirds of pupils achieved grade A* and A in IGCSEs in maths and English language, while just 18 to 20 per cent achieved the equivalent grades in reformed GCSEs.
Lucy Powell, the Labour MP for Manchester Central, said it is a “scandal” and an “outrage” that children at private schools who win top grades in their iGCSEs are looked on more favourably by universities and employers who cannot tell the difference between these exams and GCSEs.