Exclusive: Private schools say reformed exams will allow them to pull further ahead of state sector results

Fee-paying schools claim gap in results will widen with the introduction of new tougher GCSEs and A levels

The government’s GCSE and A-level reforms will widen the attainment gap between state and private schools, headteachers in the independent sector believe.

Pupils in fee-paying schools already achieve significantly better average grades compared with the state sector, and now heads say that reformed qualifications will stretch this advantage.

Chris King, headmaster of Leicester Grammar School and chair of the Headmasters’ and Headmistresses’ Conference, which represents elite independent schools, said: “It’s quite likely that the best independent schools will pull ahead in their proportion of the top grades.”

The heads say this is because the coursework and modular assessment that they had argued favoured the state sector is being abolished or significantly scaled back.

Private schools also claim that greater resources will leave them better prepared than state schools to adapt to the reforms. And they believe their pupils will gain a disproportionately large share of the new grade 9s, the highest grades in new tougher GCSEs, which will be harder to achieve than the current A*.

“Because the [grade] scale itself is being stretched out, the performance of top independent schools at the high end will become more apparent,” Mr King said.

‘We have less bureaucracy’

Julie Robinson, general secretary of the Independent Schools Council, said: “We think that because our schools have less bureaucracy to deal with overall, they’re better placed to give staff the resources, time and space to prepare.”

But Malcolm Trobe, interim general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders, said: “Teachers in the state sector will work hard and will prepare themselves and their students equally [as well as private schools] for the reformed exams.

“We’ve got no evidence about what will happen to results in 2017, so let’s not pre-judge it.”

A Department for Education spokeswoman said: “Our rigorous new GCSEs and A levels will ensure all pupils leave education with the knowledge and skills they need.

“Every time we have raised the bar, schools and colleges have risen to meet the challenge. We are confident that this is no exception.”

This is an edited version of an article in the 17 June edition of TES. Subscribers can view the full story here, or to subscribe, click here. To download the digital edition, Android users can click here and iOS users can click here. You can also download the TES Reader app for Android or iOS. TES magazine is available at all good newsagents.

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