Further threat to skills as GCSE grades drop

Posted on 23 Aug 2012

GCSE grades dropped for the first time in the exam's 24-year history today following the Government's increase in standards.

Today’s GCSE results prove worrying for the future of British manufacturing as a drop in grades has shone a brighter light on the skills shortage engulfing UK industry.

There was a drop in the number of students awarded A*-C grades for the first time since the exams were introduced in 1988, falling to 69.4% from 69.8%.

Today’s GCSE results have proved disappointing for the manufacturing industry, which hoped an increased uptake in traditional subjects would be reflected in the results. Instead a drop in C grades in mathematics of 0.4% and a drop in pass rates in chemistry, biology and physics (despite a 12% rise in uptake) will mean that colleges and businesses recruiting apprentices will have their work cut out as the national skills shortage debate shows no sign of letting up.

The situation has been compounded by a report from the Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) signalling how 80% of employers don’t believe school leavers are left prepared for the world of work.

The federation surveyed businesses employing 16-17 year olds and found a need for improved numeracy and literacy levels. It said that businesses would benefit from a fresh focus on preparing today’s youth for a working environment, pointing to a lack of core skills such as time-keeping and team working.

John Walker, national chairman, Federation of Small Businesses, said: “Businesses are more than ready to invest time and money training staff in job-related skills, but expect them to come with at least the basics.  It is a concern that businesses have again highlighted numeracy, literacy and core workplace skills, such as communication, as major problems.”

Martin Porter, head of automotive, construction and engineering at Highbury College, Portsmouth said: “The main thing students coming from schools lack is a sense of working reality. Things like work ethic, taking responsibility and time keeping are crucial for employers. That’s why we incorporate employability skills into all of our courses and make sure they relate industry.”

The need for a focus on key skills has meant that further education colleges, such as Highbury College, are providing functional skills courses such as English and maths alongside its traditional A level and BTEC courses in an attempt to give students a second chance at improving these fundamental skills.