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Lord Baker: GCSEs now ‘redundant’

Now compulsory education continues to 18, there is no need to test at 16, says the architect of the qualifications

Margaret Thatcher's education secretary Lord Baker has called for GCSEs to be scrapped

Now compulsory education continues to 18, there is no need to test at 16, says the architect of the qualifications

The former education secretary who introduced GCSEs has said the qualification is now “redundant” and has called for them to be scrapped.

Lord Baker was education secretary from 1986 to 1989 in Margaret Thatcher’s Cabinet and oversaw the development and introduction of GCSEs to replace O levels and the Certificate of Secondary Education (CSE).

He was speaking at an Edge Foundation event on Monday morning, after a speech where the Commons Education Select Committee chair Robert Halfon also made a call for GCSEs to be scrapped.

Lord Baker said: “I am the author of GCSEs in that I established those exams back in the mid-1980s, bringing together two exams. And it was necessary in the '80s because lots of youngsters left school at 16.

Baker: GCSEs 'should be quietly put to sleep'

“When I took the school certificate in 1950, only 7 per cent went on to further education and it was even more necessary. Now with the leaving age going on to 18, you don’t need to test youngsters at 16. They are redundant and I think therefore GCSEs should be quietly put to sleep.

“They won’t go easily. I see that my old department is totally opposed to [this]. That doesn’t surprise me; it means we’re on the right track. The Department for Education has always opposed radical change since 1870.”

He added: “I think it is almost inevitable that we will move to a baccalaureate at 18 – a combination of academic and vocational studies. T levels might be a way to help it, but if T levels are just add-on subjects at 16 then they will go the same way as diplomas.”

GCSEs are 'gold standard'

A DfE spokesperson said: "GCSEs 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 [they] 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."

The event in Central London marked the launch of the Edge Foundation’s Future Learning Project Based Learning Toolkit for teachers and schools.

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