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Educational failings 'scandalous'

A key Government adviser has said it is "scandalous" that half of 16-year-olds are leaving school without good GCSEs in English and maths.

Alison Wolf also attacked as "immoral" the pressures of school league tables, which have caused a move away from a core curriculum.

The comments came as Professor Wolf published her independent review into vocational education, which warned that hundreds of thousands of young people are being failed by a system that leaves many undertaking courses that "do not lead anywhere".

It calls for any teenager who fails to score at least a C in GCSE maths and English to continue these subjects post-16.

Launching the review at Westminster Kingsway College in central London, Prof Wolf, a professor of public sector management at King's College London, said: "It is absolutely scandalous that less than half of the cohort have these qualifications at 16."

Many will still not have them at the age of 18, she said, adding: "It's a real failure of our education system."

Prof Wolf said the two subjects are the "most important in the world", adding that England should be following other nations in not closing off pathways to youngsters by providing a core general education up to the age of 16.

But she said: "In the last few years because of the pressure of league tables we have moved away from that. This is a very bad thing for young people and it is immoral."

Under the current system, vocational qualifications are given points that make the "equivalent" to GCSE grades - for example one vocational qualification could be worth four GCSEs. This has led to schools and colleges entering pupils for qualifications they know youngsters will pass, in a bid to boost their league table standing.

In his foreword to the review, Education Secretary Michael Gove wrote: "She is correct to say these young people are being deceived and that this is not just unacceptable, but morally wrong."

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