Should GCSEs be scrapped in favour of apprenticeships?

Education bosses are calling for a review of GCSEs and stressing the importance of alternative learning.

Education bosses are calling for a review of GCSEs and stressing the importance of alternative learning. - Credit: PA / Stewart Heeley

Teenagers across the city are this week beginning GCSE exams.

But education bosses say that the current exam format needs a shake-up and stressed the importance of apprenticeships.

Academy trust heads and ex-teachers believe there must be a better way for the city's children to be graded.

Richard Cranmer, chief executive officer from St Benet’s Multi Academy Trust, said: "There is no doubt that the time is right to take a step back and review the effectiveness of this approach, given the developments in technology, and the opportunities that our modern society presents for school leavers.

Richard Crammer, chief executive officer from St Benet’s Multi Academy Trust.

Richard Crammer, chief executive officer from St Benet’s Multi Academy Trust. - Credit: Kate Morfoot

"The current system is one that has been in place for decades and is founded on formal written tests and examinations at set points."

Gary Champion, an ex-teacher, said: "We should be asking fundamental questions, first and foremost, what is the purpose of education.

"Teenagers are told these exams will make or break their future but, as adults, we are rarely asked about our GCSEs.

Gary Champion who quit his job as a teacher to home-school his son. Picture: Victoria Pertusa

Gary Champion who quit his job as a teacher to home-school his son. Picture: Victoria Pertusa - Credit: Victoria Pertusa

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"There are better ways to judge children than a system that puts intense pressure on them to perform their entire education in just a few weeks.

"We should look at education in terms of what the future looks like for the children - not being preoccupied by exam grades."

Geoff Barton, general secretary of the association of school and college leaders, said: “We would like to see GCSEs reformed – not necessarily scrapped.

Geoff Barton, general secretary of the association of school and college leaders.

Geoff Barton, general secretary of the association of school and college leaders. - Credit: Stewart Heeley

"They are well-recognised qualifications so there is a good argument for retaining that familiarity.

There needs to be more flexibility to take technical subjects, a wider range of assessment methods and a reduction in the number of terminal exams.

"That way they will work well for future routes – whether that be apprenticeships, university or the workplace."

Jon Ford, principal of Open Academy in Norwich.

Jon Ford, principal of Open Academy in Norwich. - Credit: Kate Morfoot

Jon Ford, principal of Open Academy in Norwich, said: "Checks that important skills have been acquired make lots of sense but I don't think they need to be the competitive, referenced fight for grades that GCSE's have become. 

"I think it would far better to assess all students against set criteria. 

"We need a measure of what people can do, however I strongly believe we do not need to create false pressure on students by restricting some career places."