Estelle Morris leads call for exams at 14, not 16

The GCSE exam should be abolished and replaced with a series of "graduation" tests at 14, Estelle Morris, a former education secretary, has said.

"We have been trying for over a decade not to get children to leave school at 16 so why are we still running a school leaving exam at that age?" she told an education conference yesterday.

Instead, she called for a return to national testing at 14 to check on pupils' level of achievement, giving teachers better guidance on which subjects they should pursue.

Baroness Morris's comments reflect a growing feeling within the education world that the GCSE exam has had its day since ministers announced the school leaving age would be raised to 18.

Research by Professor Alan Smithers, director of the Centre for Education and Employment at Buckingham University, has argued that exams should be taken at 14 so pupils could focus for an extended period on either academic or vocational subjects.

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