Cambridge International insists iGCSEs won't change name amid 'legal' threat

An awarding organisation has insisted it will not allow the controversial iGCSEs to be renamed after the chair of Ofqual said “legal routes” were being explored.

The international GCSEs no longer count in national league tables and are not regulated by Ofqual, but are still used by private schools – despite concerns they are easier for pupils to achieve top grades.

At an appearance before the education committee on Tuesday, Ofqual’s chair Roger Taylor said the qualifications cause “confusion” because they use the same terminology as regulated GCSEs, despite not being held to the same standard.

He said Ofqual and the Department for Education were looking at “legal routes around the use of the term GCSE” to address the issue.

A spokesperson for Ofqual confirmed it had done “some early exploratory work on the terms which we have passed to the DfE”.

However, Cambridge Assessment International Education has strongly refuted this suggestion and insisted iGCSE is a registered trademark.

A spokesperson said she was not aware of anyone exploring legal options, but said the iGCSE “was created by Cambridge International 30 years ago and the name belongs to us” and changing it would “cause confusion in thousands of state and independent schools worldwide.”

She added: “The standard of iGCSE and GCSE is the same.

“Higher achievement by one group of students does not mean one exam was harder than the other.”

However, minutes from an Ofqual board meeting in July 2018 said that students taking iGCSEs in English language and literature “received slightly higher grades, once prior or concurrent attainment was controlled for” and that this is “likely to be due to differences in the grading standards of the two qualifications rather than the characteristics of the students taking them”.

A DfE spokesperson said the government recognised concerns about the qualifications and is “working with exam boards to understand those issues better, and to determine what, if any, action should be taken.”

On Tuesday, Taylor told the education committee that iGCSEs are a “disturbing issue” and “not conducive to public trust in the examinations system”.