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Why we need a 'School Leaving Certificate' at 14

Gerard Kelly in his editorial "Wolf's Got Talent, but until GCSE is binned, the curriculum will lack coherence" (11 March) endorses much of what the late Jonathan Langdale and I have been advocating for some years. We, however, would not call the universal exam at 14 the EBac; we would call it the School Leaving Certificate - a certificate of competence to deal with the adult world, not of academic ability alone.

Fourteen-year-olds are not toddlers. Once the certificate is achieved, young people would be free, within reason, to pursue an education of their choice, be it "vocational", "creative" or "academic". Can we achieve what Gerard Kelly asks us to imagine - a school structure that conforms to the needs of the pupils rather than the other way round? Almost certainly not. So, perhaps, we must consider the more radical alternative: a better education outside the restrictions of the school structure altogether.

John Harrison, Co-author of Wot, No School? How Schools Impede Education.

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