Curriculum Reform – What do you need to know?

Curriculum Reform – What do you need to know?

Curriculum reform is a term which has been discussed, announced and the cause of great debate for many years now. But what exactly is curriculum reform, and how is it and will it affect young people and their studies?

My intention here is to provide you with a brief overview of the facts and the changes that you need to know about.

Basically, the reforms have been introduced as a response to the criticism that the current 14-18 qualification suite was ‘too easy’, or didn’t equip young people with the skills they require before they enter the workplace – resulting in employment based skills shortages.

Our data from the Careers Report 2016 has also highlighted the skills that young people believe they need to improve in order to access the careers they are interested in. The results showed that young people recognise the value and importance of strong maths skills and know they need to continue to develop skills in this area, which is an area many employers cite.

Pervading our data is information relating to the lack of interest, skills and career direction in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM).

In exploring and shortlisting careers, STEM careers remain amongst the lowest. Only 4 of the most popular careers in terms of exploration are associated with STEM and these are either related to Biological Sciences or Information Technology. Looking at shortlisted careers again only 4 STEM careers feature in this year’s top 50 careers.

Addressing the weaknesses in this area has been a focus for UK government for a number of years not just because of labour market shortfalls but also because STEM skills are important to all young people in developing life skills regardless of the career they choose.

Grades have also been an issue. I’m sure we all read the repeated news features every August reporting the rise once again in GCSE and A level grades, followed by the predictable cry of, ‘they’re too easy!’ Curriculum reform was born out of the desire to challenge these perceived issues.

Below are the changes that have been made, followed by the time scales.

The reforms can be divided into three areas of the curriculum, GCSEs, A levels and BTECs (14-16, 16-18, vocational)


The most visual, immediately noticeable, and possibly the most problematic reform, is the change to the GCSE grading system. No longer will GCSEs be graded A*-G. In order to reduce the number of students receiving A* grades, the new GCSEs will now be graded 9-1, with 9 being the highest and 1 the lowest. U will still represent ungraded.

The most obvious issue here concerns comparisons with the old/current grading system (8 different grade levels are now becoming 9). What, for example, is the new equivalent to a grade C? This could cause problems for employers and universities when they are comparing applications.

To view GCSE and A level changes in detail, please download our Curriculum Reform eBook here.

To view the STEM research in detail, please download our Careers Report 2016 here

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