Education committee chair calls for GCSEs to be scrapped and schooling tailored to fit digital age

GCSEs should be scrapped in a radical overhaul of England's education system, according to an MP.

Robert Halfon, who is also the Education Select Committee chairman, believes education should be altered to help young people thrive in an increasingly automated and digital age.

The MP for Harlow is advocating for GCSEs to be replaced by a baccalaureate at age 18 which recognises academic and technical skills, and personal development.

On Monday Mr Halfon will address an audience of people from the education sector at the Cabinet War Rooms.

He will tell them an emphasis on a "knowledge-rich curriculum", through performance measures like the EBacc, has pressurised teachers to train to the test.

This leads to the focus being on rote learning above skills such as communication, critical thinking, problem-solving and team-working, Mr Halfon believes.

Pupils sit GCSE exams at 16 years of age. Credit: PA

He is expected to say: "I fully support the need for every young person to be able to access through their schooling, a working knowledge of our cultural capital, our history and our literature.

"But it is also essential that we are developing our next generation of engineers, entrepreneurs and designers."All young people should have access to the technical and creative subjects that will give them the skills that employers are looking for.

"These are not 'soft skills' developed at the expense of knowledge, but the essential skills that will enable young people to interpret, manipulate and communicate that knowledge."

Robert Halfon wants education to be tailored to the digital and automated age. Credit: PA

Edge Foundation chief executive, Alice Barnard, said: "Technology is moving at such a rapid pace and change happening so quickly, we are failing young people if we do not enable them to develop the adaptability and the critical skills they need now and in the future."

A spokesman for the Department for Education said: "GSCEs are the gold standard qualification at age 16 and a passport to further study and employability - they were recently reformed so that their demand matches that in other high-performing countries and better prepare students for work and further study.

"We are also taking forward reforms from the Independent Panel on Technical Education to give students a clear choice between an academic or technical path at aged 16. T Levels, alongside apprenticeships, will form the basis of our high-quality technical education offer."