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Our GCSE reforms are restoring confidence in a system undermined by grade inflation

Mcc0091009. Students react as they collect their A Level results at Brighton College in Sussex Thursday August 15, 2019. Picture by Christopher Pledger for the Telegraph. 
As Britain prepares to leave the EU our economic prosperity will depend on creating a world-class technical and vocational education system, writes Gavin Williamson

Today’s results reflect our endeavour to create a world-class system for the opportunities ahead

This morning over half a million 16-year-olds will be on tenterhooks as they wait for their GCSE results. Add in half a million anxious families who are sharing the wait and you’ve got a sizeable chunk of Britain all biting their fingernails at breakfast. Astonishingly, I am only the second Education Secretary to have gone to a comprehensive but I can tell you, it doesn’t matter what kind of school you go to, getting your GCSE results is a big deal.

Today marks the culmination of years of hard work by not just all those pupils but their teachers too. All of them have not only had to tackle preparation for public exams but have been adapting to new, more rigorous qualifications. These are part of the reforms to bring confidence back into a system which had been undermined by grade inflation. And I’m delighted that many of those anxious pupils will be getting good news. The reforms to the curriculum and qualifications we began in 2010 are starting to bear fruit.

Provisional data shows entries in the sciences and computing are rising. These are the subjects that will be vital to Britain’s businesses in the future.

I was also pleased to see from these early indications that the number of entries to core EBacc subjects is up on last year. EBacc subjects are the backbone of any student’s education: they are valued by parents and are proven to best equip pupils for further study or the workplace. Providing an EBacc curriculum not only helps to drive up standards, it has also been shown to support social mobility, with the potential to transform the lives of pupils from poorer backgrounds.

The EBacc has been instrumental in halting the decline in uptake of modern foreign languages (MFL) at GCSE, too. Today’s results are expected to show a rise in the number of MFL entries, particularly in Spanish and French. The data also suggests a rise in arts subjects overall, showing that schools can combine the EBacc with a broader academic provision that enhances a pupil’s education.

We will continue to encourage take-up in both languages and the arts. We want all pupils to have the chance to study subjects that are not only going to set them up for the future but which will stretch them creatively. Education is not just about core subjects, although these are, of course, vitally important. It has to provide for different talents and aptitudes, and establish a launchpad for numerous different careers.

Pupils have a range of post-16 options to choose from, and many will choose vocational or technical study. This is an area in which I have a special interest and I have taken on this portfolio myself. Creating a world-class technical and vocational education system is a priority because as Britain prepares to leave the EU our economic prosperity will depend on it.

Our reforms mean that we are well placed to take advantage of the opportunities that lie ahead: apprenticeships are flourishing, with growing numbers of young people applying to take these high quality programmes, where they can earn and learn at the same time. From September next year, pupils will also be able to take the first raft of T Levels, our new technical qualifications which will transform the post-16 landscape. These results will appear on the same day as A Levels, reflecting their status.

The Prime Minister has tasked my department with a number of priorities that go beyond Brexit. We will continue our work to build a world-class education system that will equip every pupil with the knowledge and skills they need to make their way in the world. We will also continue to embed the recruitment and retention strategy, to ensure that there are more brilliant teachers in front of classes to help future generations of pupils through their GCSEs and beyond.

Top of my list will be to give teachers the support they need to tackle poor behaviour in schools. This can lead to bullying, as well as disruption in classes, preventing teachers from doing their essential jobs and preventing pupils from learning. All schools should provide a safe learning environment, and everyone in them should be able to go about their business without fear of intimidation by a minority of disruptive pupils.

Today is a milestone in many young lives. I want to congratulate all of those who are picking up their results and wish them well for whatever lies ahead.