It would be relatively easy for Eton College to abandon GCSEs, as its headmaster, Tony Little, would like to do, since the vast majority of its pupils would probably get into a leading university through predicted A-level grades. For pupils at an inner-city comprehensive, as Joan McVittie, head of Woodside High School in Tottenham, north London, suggests, it would be far harder. Her pupils need recognised qualifications to get a job. Mr Little has the kernel of a good idea, now that the leaving age for education is being raised to 17, and eventually 18. And his ideas would have more credibility if we moved to a system where pupils applied to university after receiving their A-level grades – so that admissions staff do not need to look at GCSEs for proof of performance. Even then, though, something more copper-bottomed than an internally assessed leaving certificate will be needed to make the alternative to GCSEs acceptable to employers.