The number of headteachers who believe that GCSEs help to prepare pupils for the world of work has fallen with just three in 10 heads believing this is the case.

However, the figures from Ofqual also highlight that growing numbers of people are now understanding the new GCSE grading scale of 9 to 1.

The data from Ofqual looks at the perceptions of A-levels and GCSEs and highlights that just 31% of headteachers agreed in 2018 that GCSEs ‘are a good preparation for work’.

In 2017, the proportion of heads who believed the statement to be true was 42%.

The research was carried out between October and November last year and the results also reveal that 70% of heads agree that GCSEs are a good preparation for those pupils looking for further study.

GCSEs help students to develop a broad range of skills

When asked whether GCSEs help students to develop a broad range of skills, 51% of heads said that the exams did so while 28% said they did not.

However, Ofqual’s survey also highlights the confusion over the new GCSE grading system, which came into being in 2017.

Unsurprisingly, 24% of the public believe that 1 is the highest GCSE grade available, and 13% of respondents said they didn’t know which was the highest grade.

More worryingly for schools, 1% of headteachers and 3% of teachers also gave the wrong answer over which grades are applicable at each end of the GCSE scale.

The schools’ minister, Nick Gibb, said: “We have embarked on a programme of reform over the last eight years which has driven up academic standards.

“Pupils and teachers have responded well to our gold-standard rigorous qualifications which are equipping pupils with the skills and knowledge they need for succeeding in the future.

‘New GCSE grading system helps to illustrate better pupils’ achievement’

“The new GCSE grading system helps to illustrate better pupils’ achievement and the statistics are proof of that.”

Ofqual’s deputy chief regulator, Dr Michelle Meadows, said: “We recognise the importance of public confidence in GCSE qualifications and, to that end, we are delivering a range of communications, including reducing incidence of exam malpractice, supporting students in exam preparation and explaining more about how we maintain standards in qualifications.”

More information

For more information about Ofqual’s perceptions survey, the results are on their website.