Replace GCSEs with baccalaureate, says Conservative MP

GCSE exams in England should be scrapped and replaced with a baccalaureate for school leavers that includes vocational skills and personal development, as part of a radical overhaul proposed by an influential Conservative MP. The Guardian reports. 

Robert Halfon, the MP for Harlow who chairs the House of Commons education select committee, is the first Conservative policymaker to break ranks over the future of GCSE exams, after the government’s efforts to improve their status by making them more difficult.

Halfon, who has campaigned to improve perceptions of technical education and apprenticeships, will argue on Monday that the emphasis on 16-year-olds taking GCSEs has led to a narrow focus on academic attainment and rote learning, and that a well-rounded education requires more breadth.

“All young people should have access to the technical and creative subjects that will give them the skills that employers are looking for. These are not ‘soft skills’ developed at the expense of knowledge, but the essential skills that will enable young people to interpret, manipulate and communicate that knowledge. We must move from knowledge-rich to knowledge-engaged,” Halfon will say at a meeting of the Edge Foundation education charity in London.

A spokesman for the Department for Education (DfE) said: “GSCEs are the gold-standard qualification at age 16 and a passport to further study and employability. They were recently reformed so that their demand matches that in other high-performing countries and better prepare students for work and further study.”

Alice Barnard, chief executive of the Edge Foundation, said Halfon was reflecting concerns of parents, pupils and business leaders from across sectors.

“This is about far more than just generating a competent workforce. Forward-thinking schools we are working with consistently demonstrate that engaging students in creative learning, rather than just schooling them in factual recall, raises attainment, aspiration and fosters personal growth,” Barnard said.

Read the full article Replace GCSEs with baccalaureate, says Conservative MP

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