The island is making a radical break from the English education system for 14 to 16 year olds and opting for International GCSEs instead - in a move that will cost £600,000 to implement.
Treasury Minister Tim Crookall made the announcement in Tynwald on the same day that Michael Gove, architect of the reforms that had forced the island’s hand, lost his job as UK Education Secretary.
‘It was not choreographed that way but there’s a fair degree of irony in it,’ admitted education department chief executive Dr Ronald Barr.
He said Mr Gove’s departure had been portrayed in some UK media as a victory for militant teaching unions - but the island’s example showed there was little public appetite for the English reforms here and broad support from teachers, students and businesses for a break-away.
Some island high schools, including QEII, St Ninian’s, Ballakermeen and Castle Rushen High School, already offer IGCSEs – set by Cambridge University’s international examination board and used by more than 14 countries – in certain subjects.
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 and PE. Dr Barr said it would take ‘two years tops’ to roll it out.
Those students starting their GCSE courses this September will continue to use the current English system.
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.
Both the IGCSE and Welsh GCSEs will be graded A*-G - unlike the new look English system where exams will be graded nine through to one. Again, unlike the new English model, coursework will continue to contribute to the final mark.
Dr Barr said the IGCSE will cost £600,000 to implement in terms of teacher training and new text books. ‘It’s a big operation but we only need to do it once,’ he said. He said a bid for extra funding from Treasury had been made on the basis this was change forced on the department but no decision had yet been made. Changes required under Gove would have cost £400K-£500K. Opting for the Scottish model would have been the dearest.