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Call for "rethink" as GCSE results published

Written by: Staff
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LONDON, Aug 24 (Reuters) Pupils discover today how they fared in this summer's round of GCSEs, a week after record A-level results fuelled a debate over the worth of Britain's two main school exams.

Around 600,000 children will receive GCSE results, which overall are likely to show a further rise in the proportion of good grades achieved.

Last year the number of top grades -- A* and A -- rose to a record 18.4 per cent of the total awarded, with 61.2 per cent of all papers gaining at least a C grade.

But amid the congratulations will be renewed concerns that exams have become easier and that children are taking fewer ''hard'' subjects such as modern languages.

The worries have prompted the government to pilot tougher English and Maths GCSE courses over the next two years.

The revised exams will require candidates to demonstrate they have a ''functional'' grasp of both subjects.

Liberal Democrat education spokesman Sarah Teather called for a ''radical rethink'' of both GCSE and A-levels.

''The bottom line is that pupils, universities and employers don't think that GCSEs and A-levels are delivering the relevant knowledge and skills needed for the 21st century,'' she said.

GCSEs are mostly taken by 15-year-olds and A-levels by 18-year-olds as a de facto entrance exam for university.

Last year 44 percent of children failed to achieve five GCSE passes at C grade and above, a key measure used by the government to measure the performance of schools.

The Confederation of British Industry, which represents employers, says one in three firms has to send staff for remedial training to teach them basic English and maths.

It said only 45 per cent of GCSE students last year achieved at least a C grade or above in both Maths and English.

Charity Barnardo's said many children in care would fail to gain even a single GCSE pass.

It polled 66 young people between 16 and 22 who had been in care and discovered that four out of five had no educational qualifications at all when they left school.

REUTERS VJ BST0528

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