Not making the grade – why we should scrap GCSEs

Former skills minster and current chair of the Education Select Committee, Rob Halfon MP, has called for GCSEs to be scrapped. The exams regulator Ofqual reports that the number of people who understand GCSEs well has fallen since last year from 70 per cent last to just 62 per cent. FE News reports.

Given that employers consistently say that exam grades are not at the top of their list of recruitment criteria, surely it’s time we should rethink how we measure the skills, knowledge and aptitudes of young people?

Teachers often talk resentfully about ‘teaching to the test’ and the curriculum time taken up with drilling students in exam questions, which could be spent on acquiring a richer and deeper subject knowledge and understanding.

Despite evidence to the contrary, many of the preconceptions about project based learning persist. It is often perceived to be less academically rigorous and fails to deliver the all-important exam grades which are sadly the marker of quality for our schools.

To those nay-sayers I would say visit XP School in Doncaster where students engage in two inquiry-led projects at any one time – in humanities and STEAM, as well as learning Spanish.

These ‘expeditions’ can see them working on projects with local employers or learning trigonometry through forensic science, but always at the end they produce a beautiful piece of work. Creativity runs right through their learning.

Amidst a culture of collaboration and mutual respect, XP School not only helps its students to become confident, curious and with an impressive work ethic, it also has an Outstanding rating across the board from Ofsted.

Surely we need a unified and coherent curriculum which reflects our world as it is now, and equips young people with the skills to negotiate it and succeed? Unless we move towards creating a broad and balanced curriculum which values skills and experience alongside core academic work, we are in danger of preparing young people for careers which will be digitised out of existence in the next decade.

Read more Not making the grade – why we should scrap GCSEs

Please tell us your thoughts in comments or via Twitter ~ Tamsin

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Categories: EBacc, Exams and Secondary.

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