Business unconvinced that exam reforms would boost skills

The CBI has warned the Government that business is still to be convinced that reforming the exam system would raise standards of literacy and numeracy.

The comments come ahead of the report on the education of 14 to 19-year-olds, which will be published this morning by former schools inspector Mike Tomlinson.

It is believed that he will suggest replacing GCSEs and A-levels with a diploma.

The CBI said there is widespread concern in business about the number of young people who leave school unable to read or write properly.

In a recent CBI-Pertemps survey, 47 per cent of firms expressed dissatisfaction with the basic skills of school leavers, and a third of companies said they provided remedial literacy and numeracy training.

John Cridland, CBI deputy director-general, said firms wanted radical action but would take some convincing that a major shake-up of exams will resolve the issue.  

“We are interested in reform that changes what young people achieve, not on what qualifications are called,” he said.

The CBI says business would want any reform to include:

an action plan to improve literacy and numeracy attainment, including reviews of the curriculum and teacher training

efforts to spread best practice measures to raise the quality of vocational education by employing more specialist teachers

– moves to enhance careers advice in a bid to reduce the number of young people who choose inappropriate vocational courses – currently just 27 per cent finish modern apprenticeships

evidence that the diploma will clearly differentiate the brightest youngsters, as well as not mask or rename low achievement

– evidence that improvement could not happen within the existing framework, and that the reforms would not be unduly costly.

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