Business leader calls for GCSEs to be abolished

CBI Director-General John Cridland
CBI Director-General John Cridland

Industry leaders are to call for GCSEs to be scrapped and new vocational A-levels to be introduced to ensure the education system can “deliver for all.”

The CBI’s director-general John Cridland will warn today that still having a high stakes testing of pupils at 16-year-old makes Great Britain “oddballs internationally” compared with other European countries.

He will say: “By the end of this parliament, I want to see the date for the last ever GCSE circled in the Secretary of State’s diary.”

The business leader also believes that debates over exam reform and changing the school structures which have dominated the last five years are irrelevant if they are not linked to the outcomes for young people at the end of their education.

In a speech to the Festival of Education, in London, he will call for improvements to the careers advice available to young people, a new 14 to 18 curriculum and a greater involvement from business in schools.

And he will warn that some teachers operate in fear of Ofsted.

He will say: “Let’s clear the way for a new 14-18 curriculum, based on personalisation. We need an individualised learning plan for every young person, aiming at high quality outcomes at 18, whether academic, vocational or a mix. I want education to be everyone’s business, involving parents, teachers, business and the whole community. Schools shouldn’t be places where businesspeople drop their kids at the beginning of the day like they drop-off their dry-cleaning. Businesses should lead by example - sponsoring academies, engaging with curriculum design and supporting employees who act as school governors.”

The speech will also claim that a decades-long battle between two opposing camps on how education is best delivered – rigour versus personal development – has been a distraction which is harming the prospects of young people.

He is to say: “For too long the education debate has been a battle between two opposing camps. False choices between academic achievement or vocational skill, between the right marks or the right mentality.

“A false choice that we have all allowed to determine the course of the education debate. By 2020, I want a system that doesn’t just work for some young people but all of them.”

He will tell delegates teachers need freedom to innovate. And he will claim that in weaker performing schools fear of Ofsted drives behaviour which leads to poorer outcomes.

Mr Cridland also believes careers education needs overhauling. The last Government’s decision to place the reponsibility for careers on individual schools has been widely criticised.

Mr Cridland will say: “We need to give every young person access to quality advice about the choices open to them and from an earlier age. That’s advice, not a website. Young people can access all the information they need on their smart phones. It’s a steer they need. And the best information young people can get is from test driving things first-hand.”

Mr Cridland will call for a new stretching curriculum that gives young people a choice from 14 years old and the creation of vocational A-levels.

He is expected to say: “For too long, we’ve just ‘pretended’ to have a multiple route education system. In reality, there has been only one path the system values – GCSEs, A-levels, university.”