Part of: Reforming qualifications and the curriculum to better prepare pupils for life after school, Children and young people and Schools


Employers, universities and colleges are often dissatisfied with school leavers’ literacy and numeracy even though the proportion of young people achieving good grades has gone up in recent years. Around 42% of employers need to organise additional training for young people joining them from school or college.

We believe making GCSEs and A levels more rigorous will prepare students properly for life after school. It is also necessary to introduce a curriculum that gives individual schools and teachers greater freedom to teach in the way they know works and that ensures that all pupils acquire a core of essential knowledge in English, mathematics and sciences.

Finally, we need to address literacy standards in schools and make sure pupils develop good reading skills early.

To give teachers more freedom over their teaching, we are:

  • introducing a slimmed-down national curriculum for 5- to 16-year-olds to be taught in maintained schools from 2014

See the full speech here:https://www.gov.uk/government/speeches/nicky-morgan-why-knowledge-matters

The Rt Hon Nicky Morgan MP: why knowledge matters: 27 Jan 2015 “Reading some more commentators in the press you’d think that we’d changed GCSEs and A levels purely because we want more young people to fail. Nothing could be further from the truth.

These changes are about ensuring young people leave school with qualifications that demand the respect of employers and universities. Yes, we’ve done this because we want to produce a highly skilled workforce of the future – one that ensures that the next generation can compete with their peers on the global stage.”
“Young people educated in the early 2000s ended up spending more time revising than they did learning, more time sitting tests than sitting in the classroom.

So we’ve swept away modularisation, decoupled the A level and AS Level and removed resits from school league tables – and instead created the space where schools have more time for teaching and less time wasted on arbitrary testing.”

Measuring success

Further reforms are also transforming the way we hold schools to account. From 2016, rather than measuring the number of young people that schools are forced to push over an arbitrary pass mark, we’ll … measure the progress that our pupils make rather than simply their raw attainment.

No longer will it be the case that the only pupils that matter will be those on the C/D borderline. Instead those schools that will be rewarded are those that push each pupil to reach their potential.

Character education

To support schools we’re investing in character education, supporting projects like the cadets, debating in schools and team building activities, and providing support to help the best of these projects expand.

£3.5 Million applications opened 12 January 2015 closed 6 Feb 2015

We are committed to helping schools ensure that more children develop a set of character traits, attributes and behaviours that underpin success in education and work, such as:

  • perseverance, resilience and grit
  • confidence and optimism
  • motivation, drive and ambition
  • neighbourliness and community spirit
  • tolerance and respect
  • honesty, integrity and dignity
  • conscientiousness, curiosity and focus

As ever there are those siren voices who say – what’s the point, surely you can’t examine how well schools teach character, how on earth can you measure that schools are doing it well?

In many ways this goes back to what I said earlier we’ve become obsessed with assessment as the only way of measuring progress in our education system.

This is the wrong school of thought, for too long we have infantilised our teaching profession by claiming that the only work that counts is that which can be assessed.

It’s why at the end of last year I stripped qualifications on personal effectiveness out of our league tables. Because teaching personal effectiveness, should be something that all schools are doing not simply a path to another exam.