The public’s perception of GCSEs has certainly been affected by the controversial news stories and several attempts at reform, causing some to lose faith in them. We thought we should point out some reasons why GCSEs are still relevant as things currently stand, and why they will remain so even while the plans to reform them continue.
Firstly, anyone wishing to go on to higher education will find that universities usually base their entry requirements around A-Levels, and in order to study A-Levels it is usually necessary to meet entry requirements based around GCSEs. Therefore having the right GCSEs and the right grades is an important stepping stone towards getting into your chosen university.
Non-academic career paths can also require good GCSE grades. Some vocational routes, such as apprenticeships, may include GCSEs in their entry requirements. The most common of these are GCSE English and Maths at Grade C or above.
Those wishing to progress from education and training to work may also find that their GCSE results become more important than they think. For example, if you want to become a teacher, you will need at least Grade C in English and Maths, as well as a Science if you wish to teach Primary or Key Stages 2-3. These qualifications (or the standard equivalents) are the basic entry requirements into the training you would need to get Qualified Teacher Status (QTS), which would then allow you to teach at state-maintained schools in England and Wales.
Another example of an area where GCSEs are needed is midwifery. There are no national minimum academic requirements for entry into pre-registration midwifery degrees, so each higher education institution (HEI) will set their own criteria. However, along with 2 or 3 A-Levels, HEIs will usually look for a minimum of 5 GCSEs at Grade C or above, including English and a Science.
Those aspiring to work in Childcare and Early Years will soon also find themselves in need of GCSEs. In response to the Nutbrown review, changes have been proposed that would mean anyone looking to become an Early Years Educator (level 3) would need to have at least a Grade C in GCSE English and Maths (however, nursery staff who are already in employment will not lose their jobs if they do not meet the new GCSE grade requirements).
Even if you believe your chosen career area does not require GCSEs, the realities of today’s jobs market mean that being able to include a Grade C or above in GCSE English and Maths on your CV is going to increase your chances of being shortlisted. Vacancies are fewer than they used to be, and the numbers of people competing for each place is much higher. More often than not, recruiters may find themselves needing to choose between hundreds of CVs. When the priority for them is trying to filter down as much of their applicant pool as possible, they may be forced to look for any shortcoming they can find as a reason to discard a CV. A Grade C or above in GCSE English and Maths reduces the chances that yours will be one of the ones that gets turned down.
Many employers consider a Grade C in English and Maths to be a basic requirement. They see it as a quick and easy way of telling that a candidate has a good level of general education, literacy skills and numeracy skills. Research carried out by Centre for Cities has also found strong evidence that grades in English and Maths are linked to rates of joblessness, particularly among younger jobseekers whose relative lack of experience can already work against them. Centre for Cities found that between 2007 and 2010 an average of nearly 50% of pupils in cities left education without these basic qualifications, and believes this left them unable to secure employment.
But what if you don’t have at least a Grade C in English or Maths? Or don’t have a GCSE in the correct subject for what you want to do?
One of the ways you can acquire GCSEs (or IGCSEs - International GCSEs) is through distance learning providers like NEC. IGCSEs are also becoming more and more common, particularly after several reports over the last couple of years showing that more schools are switching from GCSEs to IGCSEs. The flexibility of distance learning means that you can still earn while you learn, helping you to achieve your ambitions and improve your prospects. There are also places you can go for general help and advice, such as the National Careers Service.
For more information on distance learning and the courses offered by NEC, visit our website.