The GCSE language loophole: Hundreds of British pupils took English exam meant for foreign students

Daily Mail Online 1 month ago

A group of schools has been criticised for entering hundreds of English-speaking teenagers into a GCSE exam aimed at pupils who moved here from abroad.

Ofsted revealed one of the schools – Harris Academy Orpington in south London – spent £10,000 so almost an entire year group could sit an English as a Second Language International GCSE – even though 95 per cent of the pupils spoke only English.

The results from those who passed the exam could have been used to boost the schools’ performances in league tables. The six schools, which altogether spent about £50,000 entering 700 pupils into the IGCSE, are part of the Harris chain of 48 state-funded primaries and secondaries led by Sir Dan Moynihan – Britain’s best-paid academy chief on £450,000 a year.

Ofsted revealed one of the schools – Harris Academy Orpington in south London (pictured) – spent £10,000 so almost an entire year group could sit an English as a Second Language International GCSE
Ofsted revealed one of the schools – Harris Academy Orpington in south London (pictured) – spent £10,000 so almost an entire year group could sit an English as a Second Language International GCSE

The Cambridge International GCSE in English as a Second Language, which costs £67 per entrant, is designed to allow non-native English speakers to show what they have learned. Until this year the qualification could be used as the equivalent to a GCSE in statistics rating school performances. The loophole has now been closed.

The Mail understands that when internal concerns were raised about the use of the exam for 153 pupils at Harris Orpington – which last month received a highly critical ‘Requires Improvement’ Ofsted rating – senior leaders argued it would provide ‘good exam practice’.

A Harris Orpington source said: ‘It is absolutely disgraceful this struggling school should insult its pupils by making them do an exam designed solely for foreigners learning the language. We thought it was a naked attempt to boost the school in league tables. The poor kids knew it was wrong.

‘Dan Moynihan is the boss, he sits on the governing body and earns half a million a year. How can he justify his pay when this happens at not just one, but six of his schools?’

The results from those who passed the exam could have been used to boost the schools’ performances in league tables (file image)
The results from those who passed the exam could have been used to boost the schools’ performances in league tables (file image) 

The source added: ‘The results weren’t that impressive, either.’

The chain receives £230million of taxpayers’ money every year and teaches 36,000 pupils.

Harris claimed the use of the English tests did not significantly improve the league table ratings of the six schools involved, but has refused to release full results.

A spokesman also refused to comment on Sir Dan’s knowledge of the English exam, but admitted putting pupils through it was ‘inappropriate’ and that the practice has now stopped. They refused to discuss the group’s use of public funds.

Ofsted strategy director Luke Tryl warned in February that un-named schools were guilty of ‘pure gaming’ of league tables in entering native-English speakers for the specialist foreigners’ exam.

A Department for Education spokesman said last night: ‘The department has now removed International GCSEs from its approved list and it no longer counts in performance tables.’ 


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