Labour should be prepared to ditch GCSEs in a radical overhaul of the “over-regulated, over-tested” secondary school system, shadow education secretary Tristram Hunt has said.
Mr Hunt said the exam was becoming increasingly irrelevant at a time when falling numbers of pupils are leaving school at 16.
He called for the creation of a new system of baccalaureates, with pupils deciding from the age of 14 whether they wanted to pursue an academic or a vocational “pathway” during the course of the rest of their schooling.
“We have GCSEs, but we are no longer leaving school at 16. We have got a rising participation age to 18,” he told the BBC Radio 4 Today programme.
“In a decade’s time, if we have still got GCSEs in England, in Britain, we will be completely out of kilter with other European countries and not giving young people what they need.
“I think we need both academic and vocational baccalaureates so young people begin to choose about their pathways – whether those are technical, vocational pathways or academic pathways – at the age of 14.
“That would remove some of the exam overload.”
Mr Hunt, who is backing Liz Kendall for the Labour leadership having ruled himself out of the contest, acknowledged that the Conservatives had been more successful in setting the agenda on education in the general election.
“I think that was partly because of leadership from the top. David Cameron, having himself been a shadow education secretary, is interested in education. We needed to be much more focused on that,” he said.