Some teenagers with top-grade passes in GCSE in maths and English still struggled to read, write and add up when they started work, the Schools minister, Nick Gibb, said yesterday.
He told a Commons inquiry into exam reform: "It's possible to get a good grade at GCSE in maths and English and still present problems to employers in terms of literacy and maths skills."
His comments follow complaints by academics that too much "teaching to the test" in schools had led to pupils learning by rote but lacking the knowledge or skills to apply what they had learnt outside the classroom.
Mr Gibb told the Commons select committee on education he was considering ranking schools on the percentage of A and A* grades obtained by pupils. This would run alongside the current ranking by A* to C grade passes which, critics say, has led to schools concentrating on improving the performance of pupils on borderline C grade passes – and thus not stretching the brightest pupils. He said: "Education is not about getting a raft of certificates. It is about leaving school as educated as you can be and if our certificate awarding system is hampering that, we need to do something about it."