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Private schools use easier exams.

Private schools use easier exams.

Top universities are giving privately educated children an unfair advantage by not differentiating between the rigorous GCSEs compulsory in the state system and less demanding exams taken in many fee-paying schools, MPs and educationists have said.

Just days after GCSE results day last Thursday, Freedom of Information (FoI) requests by Labour MP Lucy Powell show that almost all Russell Group universities treat the two types of exam – the regulated GCSEs used in the state system, and IGCSEs, which the government admits do not meet the same high standards – as exact equivalents in admission processes.

This weekend, Robert Halfon, the Conservative MP who chairs the Commons education select committee, said it was extraordinary that state school pupils were taking harder exams than their private school counterparts, and that these qualifications were then treated as the same by universities. “The priority has to be a level playing field,” Halfon said. “I find it extraordinary that … pupils in private schools, who start with many advantages, are then able to take inferior exams. Everyone should have the chance to climb the education ladder, without unfair advantage to those in private schools.”

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