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19.11.12

CBI calls for reform of schools system

Business leaders have criticised the “exam factory” focus of schools and called for the emphasis of reform to be shifted from GCSEs to A-levels.

Employers seek well-rounded individuals, not just students on a conveyor belt of exams and league tables, a new report by the CBI argues. First Steps highlights that school standards in the UK have slipped in comparison to international levels.

The report recommends a range of measures to improve this, including better childcare, an overhaul of primary curriculum and a revised A-level system also offering ‘gold standard’ vocational qualifications. A decentralisation of power to schools would also improve teaching, the CBI said.

John Cridland, the CBI director general, said of the current system: “It’s very rigid and it emphasises the typical and the average. It doesn’t necessarily well support the 30% who struggle and doesn't necessarily well support the 10% who are flying.

“If we’re all committed to raising the education leaving age to 18 over the next few years, then the tests at 16 are hugely important but they're not the end point. They're a staging post. Sometimes the entire debate seems to be about our exams at 16.

“The logic of what we’re saying is that over time, the critical moments become 13 to 14 and then 18. Thirteen to 14 because of the choices people make, which school they go to and what subjects they study, and then four years of learning which culminates in the choice of university. Sixteen is important, but it’s not an end point.”

He added: “The best teachers we’ve talked to are rebels against the system. They have had to break out of the straitjacket of the curriculum which has stopped them delivering the sort of education our young people need.”

Stephen Twigg, the shadow education secretary, commented: “This report suggests that the Government's planned EBacc certificates are the wrong approach. When business leaders say his approach to education is wrong, Michael Gove looks seriously out of touch.”

A Department for Education spokesman said: “No school should settle for second best – and every one of our reforms is designed to drive up standards so all children have a first-class education.”

The report is at: www.cbi.org.uk/media/1845483/cbi_education_report_191112.pdf   

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