Funding call for Isle of Man’s move to IGCSEs

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Funding must be put in place to help implement the move to International GCSEs, a teaching union has insisted.

Education Minister Tim Crookall announced in Tynwald last week that the island was breaking with England as it overhauls its exam system for 14 to 16 year olds.

The move, starting with English and maths in September 2015, will cost £600,000 to implement in terms of teacher training and new text books.

A bid for extra funding from Treasury has been made – but no decision has been made.

Association of Teachers and Lecturers Isle of Man branch secretary Andrew Shipley told the Manx Independent: ‘Teachers will rise to the challenge of implementation but resources need to be in place, as well as appropriate training.

‘We are pleased that this has been recognised with the approach being made to Treasury by the DEC [Department of Education and Children].’

Mr Shipley, who teaches physics, added: ‘In my own subject the cost of books is significantly higher than the course that our current Year 10 and 11 students are undertaking. It is important that funding is put in place to help with the implementation of the IGCSEs so that we are fully prepared for the start of the new courses.’

National Union of Teachers island branch secretary Karl Flint said he believed that IGCSEs was the best option available to the island.

‘We were geared up to the English system and had been for a very long time so it was a big break to make.

‘But I think it was something that had to be done.’

He described the English reforms as being ‘educationally very bad’.

But he admitted that IGCSEs weren’t perfect, for example, in some subjects, exams are only offered in November and not the summer.

Both union officials agreed that IGCSEs were slightly more academic than traditional GCSEs - and were less suitable for less academic students.

And they want to see alternative courses in place.

Mr Flint said: ‘What they are talking about is vocational training, that’s NVQs and City and Guilds that will allow our less academic young people to flourish, gain qualifications and go on and become useful members of our society.’

Mr Shipley said: ‘We have time to find appropriate pathways which meet the needs of these students and employers.

‘A dialogue about education, which has included this consultation, must continue for the benefit of future generations of pupils and ultimately for all on the Isle of Man.’

The island’s high schools have a full year to prepare for the switch to the exams set by Cambridge University’s international examination board.

Mr Shipley said: ‘There are a range of views amongst the teaching profession about the consultation and the ultimate decision announced by Minister Crookall,’ he said.

‘Some believed that the questions posed in the consultation were too leading and ultimately that Minister Crookall by making a decision and announcing it in Tynwald, that this was in itself political interference, but this is a moot point.’

From September 2015, all the high schools will offer IGCSEs in English and maths, with other subjects to follow including sciences, geography, history, art, music.

Mr Crookall told Tynwald by 2017 80 per cent of GCSE entries will be through the IGCSE but there were ‘compelling’ reasons why schools believe it was not the best way in some subjects.

For those subjects - design and technology, modern languages and RE, schools will follow GCSEs offered by the Welsh Board instead.

The decision does not impair the ability of schools to enter pupils into vocational qualifications such as BTECs.

Some high schools, already offer IGCSEs in certain subjects.

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