GCSEs should be scrapped as part of major education system overhaul, senior MP says

Robert Halfon calls for exams to be replaced by baccalaureate at age 18 which focusses on skills needed for 'digital age' 

Monday 11 February 2019 11:20 GMT
What is the new GCSE grading system?

The chairman of the Education Select Committee is calling for GCSEs to be scrapped and says England’s education system is in need of a radical overhaul.

Robert Halfon believes young people need to develop skills alongside subject knowledge in order to thrive in an increasingly automated and digital age.

The MP for Harlow is advocating for GCSEs to be replaced by a baccalaureate at age 18 which recognises academic and technical skills, and personal development because the current exams have become "pointless".

On Monday, Mr Halfon will address an audience of people from the education sector at the Cabinet War Rooms.

He will tell them an emphasis on a “knowledge-rich curriculum”, through performance measures like the EBacc, has pressurised teachers to train to the test.

This leads to the focus being on rote learning above skills such as communication, critical thinking, problem-solving and team-working, Mr Halfon believes.

Speaking at the launch of the Edge Future Learning Project Based Learning Toolkit for teachers and schools, he is expected to say: “I fully support the need for every young person to be able to access through their schooling, a working knowledge of our cultural capital, our history and our literature.

“But it is also essential that we are developing our next generation of engineers, entrepreneurs and designers.

“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.”

Edge Foundation chief executive, Alice Barnard, said: “I think Robert is reflecting the concerns not only of parents, teachers and pupils themselves, but employers and business leaders from across all sectors.

“Technology is moving at such a rapid pace and change happening so quickly, we are failing young people if we do not enable them to develop the adaptability and the critical skills they need now and in the future.”

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A spokesman for the Department for Education 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.

“We are also taking forward reforms from the Independent Panel on Technical Education to give students a clear choice between an academic or technical path at aged 16. T Levels, alongside apprenticeships, will form the basis of our high-quality technical education offer.”


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