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Round-up of the week: GCSE special

Posted on 21st August 2015

Employers and the wider business community have been keeping a close eye on the exam results coming out over the last week or so.

Business community responds to exam results

Teenagers across England, Wales and Northern Ireland this week received their GCSE results. Overall, the proportion of A* to C grades went up from 68.8% last year to 69% this time round, although the number of students getting A* grades declined by 0.1%.

The release of the results has given leading figures in the business community the perfect opportunity to state their wishes when it comes to future employment and skills availability.

For instance, the CBI has insisted the government must conduct a wide-ranging review of education for 14 to 18-year-olds in order to produce a system that delivers academic, vocational and combined options for everyone.

Katja Hall, deputy director-general of the CBI, commented: "Business wants exams at 16 years old to be a staging post on a path to 18 for all young people, not an end in themselves.

"Employers value attitudes and resilience just as much as academic results, so we must make sure that exams aren’t the only target our schools and colleges have."

The British Chambers of Commerce, meanwhile, agreed that so-called soft skills are just as valuable to employers as good grades.

John Longworth, director-general of the body, has therefore insisted it is in everyone's interests to ensure young people "gain the employability skills and exposure to work that businesses look for while they are still at school". 

"To make that happen we need the government to ensure that the job destination of students is a bigger focus when judging schools," he said.

However, Mr Longworth said there are a number of positives to be drawn from the figures. For instance, he noted that annual grade inflation has undermined business confidence in the exam system in recent years, whereas the pass rate is more or less the same as it was last year this time around.

Furthermore, he said it is good news for employers that more and more young people are studying subjects such as computing and ICT.
However, Mr Longworth described the falling take-up of modern language courses as "disappointing", as language skills are "helpful in today's global business market".

7 in 10 businesses want greater focus on soft skills

A new study by the Institute of Directors (IoD) has also shone a light on the importance of soft skills and workplace readiness among young people.

According to a poll of its members, 68% of businesses believe the communication skills of school leavers and graduates could be better.

Meanwhile, 44% of respondents are concerned that some people leaving school and university are unable to work to deadlines, while many are also worried about their problem-solving capabilities, resourcefulness and ability to work in a team.

Seamus Nevin, head of employment of skills policy at the IoD, commented: "Exam results are important, but they are only one element of a broad and comprehensive education. We need to make sure that our schools equip young people for the needs of the modern economy.
 
"These skills need to be built from an early age. It is too late to start teaching them at secondary school. They must be at the heart of the education system from beginning to end."