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Should 'pointless' GCSEs be scrapped?

Students sitting exams. Education select committee chairman Robert Halfon has suggested overhauls to the education system to give students a broader range of skills alongside academic knowledge. Photo: Niall Carson/PA Wire

Students sitting exams. Education select committee chairman Robert Halfon has suggested overhauls to the education system to give students a broader range of skills alongside academic knowledge. Photo: Niall Carson/PA Wire

'Pointless' GCSEs should be scrapped in favour of a system which teaches students skills alongside knowledge, a former government minister has claimed.

Robert Halfon, chairman of the education select committee, said the UK’s education system needs a radical overhaul.

He is calling for GCSEs to be replaced by new exams at 18 which measure students’ academic and technical skills as well as personal development.

Do you agree that GCSEs should be scrapped? Take part in our poll.

In an address on Monday, Harlow MP Mr Halfon will say an emphasis on a “knowledge-based curriculum” has put pressure on teachers to train students to the demands of tests.

This leads to a focus on rote learning above skills such as communication, critical thinking, problem-solving and team-working, he believes.

Speaking at the launch of the Edge Future Learning Project Based Learning Toolkit for teachers and schools, he will say: “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.”

A spokesman for the Department for Education said recent GCSE reforms aimed to bring them up to the standard of exams in other high-performing countries, while the introduction of T levels for post-16 students will form the foundation of a “high-quality technical education offer” alongside traditional, academic A levels.

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