Education & Family

Business leaders express doubt over the value of GCSEs

exam hall
Image caption The CBI is planning to look at the issue in depth and will present its findings later this year

The value of GCSE qualifications has been questioned by business leaders.

The Confederation of British Industry (CBI) fears the exams, taken by 16-year-olds, force pupils to narrow their options too early.

With the school leaving age in England due to rise to 17 in 2013 and 18 in 2015, it could be time to reconsider the current exam system, it says.

The Department for Education says its reforms will ensure GCSE pupils have a "lasting understanding of a subject".

The CBI, which speaks on behalf of 240,000 businesses across the UK, is planning to look at the issue in depth and will present its findings later this year.

Neil Carberry, director for education at the CBI, said: "We are questioning whether we have the structure right at secondary [school], whether the current arrangement of exams at 16 is leading people to narrow their choices too early."

Scrap exams?

Many youngsters may not be getting the breadth of education, the core subjects and employability skills they will need later in life, he said.

With 18 becoming the new end-point of compulsory education, it could be time to review the GCSE model, he added.

A Department for Education spokesman said: "We want all our exams to rank with the best in the world.

"Our reforms to GCSEs will mean students achieve a real and lasting understanding of a subject."

The CBI, which represents business leaders, is not the first to raise concerns about GCSEs.

Last year, former Education Secretary Baroness Estelle Morris suggested the exams should be scrapped and replaced with new tests at age 14.

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