Less than a third of heads think GCSEs prepare pupils for work

Confidence in GCSEs as a good preparation for work among headteachers slumped last year, according to a new survey which also reveals widespread confusion about the new grading system.

Ofqual has published its annual report on the perceptions of A-levels, GCSEs and other qualifications, which is based on a survey of heads, teachers and others carried out between October 29 and November 28 last year.

Last year, just 31 per cent of heads said GCSEs are good preparation for work, down from 42 per cent the year before. However, when asked if GCSEs are good preparation for further study, 71 per cent of heads agreed.

Just 51 per cent of headteachers said GCSEs help pupils develop a broad range of skills for pupils. Twenty-eight per cent said they didn’t.

The survey also reveals continuing confusion about the new GCSE grading system, which has now been in place since 2017.

Twenty-four per cent of the general public incorrectly believe 1 is the highest grade available, while 13 per cent said they didn’t know.

Worryingly, 3 per cent of teachers and 1 per cent of heads also gave the wrong answer when asked which grades were at each end of the scale.

Nick Gibb, the schools minister, said: “Over the last eight years we’ve embarked on a huge programme of reform which has driven up academic standards.

“Teachers and pupils have responded well to our more rigorous, gold-standard qualifications, which are equipping young people with the knowledge and skills they need to succeed in the future, and our new GCSE grading system that better illustrates pupils’ achievements – and these statistics are evidence of that.”

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  1. Knowledge and understanding about employment together with the skills needed (punctuality, team work, communication skills etc) may be touched upon during GCSE preparation but not necessarily so. Preparing pupils for work was never a primary reason for GCSEs.
    Generic work-related skills need a well-planned careers education and guidance (CEG) programme. Gains made during the Technical and Vocational Education Initiative (1983-1997) were overturned when the scheme ended. The erosion of CEG worsened after Michael Gove said schools needn’t offer work experience and professional careers advisers where self-interested and spouted ‘garbage’.