GCSEs going strong

William JordanUS Elections Editor
August 22, 2013, 9:57 AM GMT+0

49% of British adults are confident in the GCSE exam system and 52% want it retained – only 24% want GCSEs replaced

Amid claims that GCSEs have been ‘devalued by grade inflation’ over the last ten years, results day brings news that the proportion of top grades received has fallen for the second year running. Some have attributed the drop to Coalition reforms that incentivize schools to encourage students to take ‘tougher’, core academic subjects in their GCSEs.

New YouGov research reveals that about half of the public back GCSEs and want them to stay, and support for the exams is strongest among younger Britons.

49% of British adults say they are confident in the GCSE exams system, compared to only 36% who say they are not.

GCSEs replaced O-levels in 1988, making the first generation of exam takers 40-41 years old today, and confidence in the exams strongest among those young enough to have actually taken them. Fully two thirds (67%) of Britons aged 18-24 and 56% of those aged 25-39 are confident in the exams. Meanwhile only 39% of Britons over 60 are confident in GCSEs, compared to 46% who are not.

The public is equally supportive of keeping the current system going, with 53% in favour of retaining GCSEs. Only about a quarter (24%) want them replaced.

Again, younger Britons are much more positive about the exams than older Britons, with 18-24s splitting 71-16% for retention and 25-39s going the same way by 59-18%. However, even adults aged 40-59 and over 60 tend to support keeping the GCSEs around, by 47-25% and 49-32%, respectively.

Education secretary Michael Gove announced in June of last year that the government would scrap the GCSEs and replace them with the English Baccalaureate Certificate, which aimed to be tougher and emulate the ‘O’-level style qualification that preceded GCSEs. The scheme was abandoned in February 2013, however, when Gove could not rally enough support for the reforms, calling them "a bridge too far".

Image: Getty

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