They are versatile and valued qualifications, but we must reform how they are used, when they are taken and how they are recognised.
Objective assessment of students’ learning supports motivation and provides an external benchmark in a learner’s development. At this age, it also helps those without the social capital outside of the education system to promote their capabilities to progress.
The versatility of GCSE should not be undermined by the design rules that have governed the most recent reforms. At Key Stage 4, accountability measures should follow, not lead, good curriculum and assessment policy. There needs to be a degree of adaptability to allow schools to deliver the curriculum their pupils need.
In the post-16 phase, a GCSE ‘one-size-fits-all’ approach to maths and English fails too many learners. Learners need to acquire the numeracy and literacy skills required to access higher technical education, and beyond that, into work. Relevant, alternative qualifications need to be available and clearly understood by further and higher education institutions and employers.