CBI head calls for GCSEs to be scrapped

The BBC is reporting that the head of the CBI has called for a date to be set in the next five years to scrap GCSEs and introduce an exam system with equal status for vocational subjects…

John Cridland, director general of the employers’ group, says England’s exam system is narrow and out of date.

He proposes a system in which the most important exams would be A-levels, including both academic and vocational subjects, taken at the age of 18…

“By the end of this parliament, I want to see the date for the last GCSEs circled in the secretary of state’s diary,” said Mr Cridland, who warns of a “false choice” between academic and vocational lessons…

Mr Cridland says there needs to be a definite date to stop GCSEs, arguing that they have been made an irrelevance when pupils stay in education or training until the age of 18.

In having such major exams at the age of 16, he says: “We have to face the uncomfortable truth that – internationally – we’re the oddballs.”

“GCSEs are past their sell-by date and should be retired.” He says that the only purpose they serve now is to allow measurement of schools through league tables.

The proposal to scrap GCSEs comes as ministers are pushing for an even greater emphasis on academic GCSEs, with plans for all pupils to have to take core academic subjects.

This announcement “misses the point that we need curriculum reform, not just exam reform”, says the CBI chief.

“The government must make a start on a full review of 14-to-18 education by the end of the summer,” he says…

More at: CBI head calls for GCSEs to be scrapped


There seem to be quite a lot of echoes here with Tristram Hunt’s calls for fundamental reform of the 14-18 education system – is a head of momentum starting to build?

And do you agree with John Cridland? Are GCSEs beyond their sell-by and is it time for them to be retired with the major focus switching to one set of major exams – covering academic and vocational subjects equally – at the age of 18?

And what about the timing? Are you up for these changes happening in the next five years?

Please give us your feedback in the comments or via Twitter…


Is it time to retire GCSEs and focus on one set of major exams at 18?


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  1. andylutwyche

    SchoolsImprove There’s little in a name but right to want voc quals equal to academic. Current govt policy going opposite way #idiots

  2. andylutwyche

    SchoolsImprove Everyone from school leaders/teachers to business people saying that the Ebacc for all policy is poor yet DfE plough ahead

  3. lennyvalentino

    SchoolsImprove I would be nervous about this. Many young people barely engaged to16, and all deserve something concrete after 12 years edu

  4. One of the reasons the O-level/CSE split was replaced by GCSE was to give equal value to vocational and academic skills.
    What happened, however, is that every child was pushed towards an academic route.  We started to describe C-grade and above as a ‘decent’ GCSE.  The whole system has become oriented to pushing students over this boundary.
    Technical colleges were re-branded as universities and practical subject academicised
    Nursing became a degree process.
    Simply changing the name of exams does not solve the problem – it is a cultural/values problem with too many UK citizens having academic snobbery.

  5. Ian H

    It’s important that we listen to Mr Cridland because he has a degree in Indian and African History and has experience of nowhere but his current quango since he was 21.

  6. Ian H

    It’s important that we listen to Mr Cridland because he has a degree in Indian and African History and has experience of nowhere but his current quango since he was 21.

  7. TW

    It comes to something when the head of the CBI shows more understanding of human potential and the proper purpose of an education system than the government, the entire political class, and the Ofsted quango put together.
    It used to be the case that a function of the Conservative Party was to pretend to agree with the sort of barbarian that was so often represented by leaders of the CBI while actually ignoring them.  Now it seems that MI5 might have to classify the CBI as a dangerous left-wing organisation.

  8. @lennyvalentino SchoolsImprove There could still be a limited number of tests at 16 – these, together with teacher assessment and pupil inclination, could be used to decide 16+ progression.  These tests could count towards graduation at 18.  The participation age is rising to 18 so it’s logical this will be the end of mandatory education.

  9. amirshah316

    SchoolsImprove This just shows that when it comes to education policy there are too many vested interests that don’t include teachers

  10. simonwithey

    SchoolsImprove what does Finland do? No external exams at 16. #finishlessons avg primary child attnds 599hrs in Eng only 368hrs in Finland

Let us know what you think...