In the UK, it used to be the case that children could leave school at 16. This was the reason for 'O' levels (which my parents took), and GCSEs, which I sat at that age.
However, these days, young people must remain in education or training until they are 18 years old. What, then, is the point of taking exams aged 16 and 18?
A group of Tory MPs has written a report, with one of the authors, Flick Drummond, making some good points:
The paper argues that preparation for GCSE exams means that pupils miss a large chunk of valuable learning because of the time taken up with mock exams and revision, followed by the exams themselves. “That’s almost six months out of a whole year spent preparing for exams,” said Drummond.
She said she was particularly concerned by the impact of exams on mental health, citing a report backed by the Children’s Society in August that ranked England 36th out of 45 countries in Europe and North America for wellbeing.
Richard Adams, Tory MPs back ditching GCSE exams in English school system overhaul (The Guardian)
Instead, the new report says, the exams should be replaced by a baccalaureate, which would cover several years’ study and would allow children more time from the age of 15 to settle on the subjects they wanted to study in the sixth form for A-levels or vocational qualifications such as T-levels and apprenticeships, and to explore potential careers in a structured way.
As a parent of children who could be affected by this, I actually think this should be trialled first in the private sector and then rolled out in the state sector. Too often, the private sector benefits from treating state school pupils as guinea pigs, and then cherry-picking what works.