School's GCSE English students can choose from traditional combination of coursework and exam or new exam-based IGCSE
Pupils at an Aldershot School which suffered a drop in GCSE pass rates this year will have the chance to take a different exam in a bid to rescue results.
The Connaught School, in Tongham Road, recorded a significant decrease in the number of pupils who achieved at least five A* to C grades including maths and English on August 22 - falling to 38% compared with 46% last year.
As a result, some English pupils will next year sit International GCSE (IGCSE) papers, which are more exam-based and rely less heavily on coursework assessments.
The move towards the IGCSE, made available to UK schools in 2009 by education secretary Michael Gove, has been made by a number of schools in the surrounding area to help students who struggle with longer writing assessments but are more comfortable with shorter exams.
The Connaught headteacher Lindsey Abbott said: “We had to look for an exam that would suit all our pupils. I hope this will have an impact on results.
“We’re not changing, we’re adding an exam board to support the needs of all the children.”
There will now be two options for English students at The Connaught, depending on their strengths. Some will continue to sit the AQA coursework and take an exam in the summer, while others will be entered into the full IGCSE programme.
Teachers at the school have immediately adapted lessons to prepare students for the new papers.
Despite 84% of students achieving at least five grades of C and above in all subjects on this year’s results day, Mrs Abbott expressed her concern at the drop in performance and promised that efforts would be made to identify what had gone wrong.
She said that, although staff and pupils had worked hard, she would be spending time with staff looking at the grade boundaries "to see what needs to be put in place for next year".
Meetings were held with heads of departments once the new academic year had commenced this month, and it was decided that the grade boundary changes introduced by examining board AQA, which demanded more marks to achieve a C grade, had hit students’ coursework grades particularly hard.
Mrs Abbott added: “If you are a borderline student, you can drop from a B to a C grade and it is still a high-grade pass, but if you drop from a C to a D then you have lost out.
"We’re not the only school to do this and all schools have meetings with staff to discuss exam results. The English department also came out ‘good’ in our most recent Ofsted report.
“But we can’t go on doing what we were doing before. Something had to change.”