CBI wrong about GCSEs, Government wrong about exam boards – Group Chief Executive

12 October 2015

The Group Chief Executive of Cambridge Assessment has rejected a claim by the Confederation of British Industry that England is an “oddball” nation because its young people take GCSEs.

In a speech today to the Westminster Education Forum, Simon Lebus said that John Cridland, Director-General of the employers’ organisation, was wrong to claim that England’s exam system was out of step with rest of the world. Mr Lebus said that a study by Cambridge Assessment’s Research Division had looked at the education systems in more than 50 countries and found that more than half carry out some form of external assessment at the gateway to upper secondary education.

He said that calls to abolish the GCSE were in fact a “proxy debate about the sort of curriculum we need and the sort of learning we want for our young people in a period of change”.

Mr Lebus then went on to address remarks attributed to the Schools Minister Nick Gibb in which he appeared to suggest England’s multiple exam boards could be replaced by a single state-owned and run exam board. Mr Lebus said that the remarks appeared more like a policy from Labour than the Tories.

“It sounds like an improbably Corbynesque solution for a Conservative government to want to implement,” Mr Lebus said. He said any move to a single, state-run exam board would be beset with “a host of problems” and that the government did not appear to understand the scale of the technological and operational resources it would need. 

He ended his speech by calling for education reforms to be allowed to bed in. “If we are going to make fundamental changes, we need to avoid the next five years otherwise we will end up jeopardising the stability of the system in a period of maximum change," he said.

Watch Mr Lebus’s speech in full above.