THE number of state schools in the North-East offering the elite IGCSE qualification has jumped from 14 to 54 in the last year.

It means the region now has more state schools offering the International General Certificate of Secondary Education than any other part of the country.

Intended to be tougher than the conventional GCSE examination the IGCSE was launched 25 years ago.

Unlike GCSE, which has a large element of coursework assessment, IGCSE qualifications are marked on exam results at the end of two years of study.

The CIE board said the uptake of Cambridge IGCSE has continued to rise significantly in schools across the country - with a marked uplift in English and the sciences.

Nationally, the number of entries for Cambridge IGCSE in English (Literature and Language), and sciences (Chemistry, Biology and Physics) has almost tripled in just one year, with exam entries leaping from 34 834 for June 2012 to 93 348 for June 2013.

The total number of entries for all Cambridge IGCSE subjects has doubled in the past 12 months, with over 115 000 entries made by schools this year.

The number of UK state schools offering the IGCSE qualification has almost tripled, rising from 368 in June 2012 to 963 this year, meaning state schools now make up almost three-quarters of schools offering the qualification.

Including independent schools, Cambridge IGCSE is now being taken in over 1300 schools in the UK.

Michael O'Sullivan, chief executive of CIE, said: "Schools recognise that its linear structure offers rigour and effective preparation for the next stage of their students' education."