GCSEs’ value questioned by CBI

Business leaders questioned the value of GCSEs today.

There are concerns that the qualifications, taken by 16-year-olds, force pupils to narrow their options too early, according to the Confederation of British Industry (CBI).

It suggested that with the school leaving age set to be raised, it is time to re-consider the current exam system.

Neil Carberry, director for education at the CBI, said: “We are questioning whether we have the structure right at secondary, in as much as whether having the current arrangement of exams at 16 is leading people to narrow their choices too early.”

Many youngsters may not be getting the breadth of education, the core subjects and employability skills that they will need for later in life, he suggested.

Mr Carberry added: “The hypothesis we are working from is young people become too narrow too quickly and that perhaps, given that we have a summative point in the education system of 18, perhaps the model of GCSEs and doing a summative assessment on four terms of teaching at 16 for everybody, is something we need to review.”

The CBI said it is planning to look in depth at the issue and present its findings later this year.

The organisation, which represents business leaders, is not the first to raise concerns about GCSEs.

Last year, former education secretary Baroness Estelle Morris suggested the exams should be scrapped and replaced with new tests at age 14.

Some private school heads have put forward similar suggestions, including Dr Helen Wright, headmistress of private school St Mary’s Calne, who argued that the qualifications have run their course.

From next year teenagers will be asked to stay in school or training until they are 17, and in 2015, this will rise to 18.

A Department for Education spokesman said: “We want all our exams to rank with the best in the world. Our reforms to GCSEs will mean students achieve a real and lasting understanding of a subject.”


Paul Champion

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