Only three in 10 heads think GCSEs prepare pupils for work

But Ofqual figures show more people understand 9 to 1 GCSE grading scale

school pupils

The proportion of headteachers who think that GCSEs prepare students for work has fallen.

According to new data on perceptions of GCSEs and A levels published by Ofqual today, just 31 per cent of heads in 2018 agreed with the statement “GCSEs are good preparation for work”.

This was a fall compared to the 42 per cent who agreed in 2017.


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Overall, just over a third (35 per cent) of Ofqual’s stakeholders agreed that GCSEs are good preparation for work, which is consistent with the results from 2017 (also 35 per cent).

GCSEs have come in for criticism in recent months, with high-profile figures questioning whether they prepare young people for the future labour market.

Robert Halfon, the chair of the House of Commons Education Select Committee, has called for them to be scrapped and replaced with a baccalaureate qualification at age 18 that would recognise the academic and vocational sides of education.

"All young people should have access to the technical and creative subjects that will give them the skills that employers are looking for," he said.

According to today's Ofqual data, 69 per cent of stakeholders agreed that GCSEs are good preparation for further study, and 57 per cent agreed that they develop a broad range of skills, which is in line with Ofqual's surveys over the last few years. 

The proportion of stakeholders in 2018 who agreed that the marking of GCSEs is accurate also remained consistent with the previous year, at 36 per cent. However, there was a decrease in levels of agreement among employers, from 41 per cent to 32 per cent.

Eighty-five per cent of stakeholders were aware of the new 9 to 1 grading scale.

There has been a year-on-year increase since 2015 in knowledge of the 9 to 1 grading scale, with the majority of all stakeholders in 2018 (86 per cent) correctly identifying that 9 is the highest grade that students can get, compared with 74 per cent in 2015.

School standards minister Nick Gibb said: “Over the last eight years, we’ve embarked on a huge programme of reform which has driven up academic standards.

"Teachers and pupils have responded well to our more rigorous, gold-standard qualifications, which are equipping young people with the knowledge and skills they need to succeed in the future, and our new GCSE grading system that better illustrates pupils’ achievements – and these statistics are evidence of that.

“We’ve worked with Ofqual to make sure the reforms are understood well and, while there is work to be done in some areas, the fact that 85 per cent of people surveyed understand the new grading system and most people agree that GCSEs and A levels are good preparation for further study shows this work is having an effect.”

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