Suffolk: New Exam for GCSE Students?

20 September 2012, 12:00 | Updated: 20 September 2012, 16:08

Teenagers in Suffolk could soon be able to study for a new qualification that could help them get jobs in the future.

There are calls for schools in Suffolk to work with businesses to develop a localised educational award if their children are to benefit from the county’s economic strengths.

Joe Hallgarten, director of education at the Royal Society for the encouragement of Arts, Manufactures and Commerce (RSA), which is leading Suffolk's independent commission on educational standards and aspiration, will propose to a gathering of 30 heads that Suffolk's children should be 'given the tools to capitalise on Suffolk's strengths' by studying for a 'Suffolk Baccalaureate’ alongside their GCSEs. 

If adopted by schools, the Suffolk Baccalaureate could be used to close the gap between the classroom and the workplace by teaching young people the skills needed to be successful in today’s tough employment market, and especially local industries.

Those workplace skills, which would be in addition to traditional GCSE qualifications, could include:

  • Resilience, character, confidence, flexibility.
  • Self-management, team-working and problem solving.
  • Knowledge of key local industries such as green energy production, agriculture and tourism.

It comes in the week that the future of England's education system is being debated in parliament and the media.

Joe Hallgarten said:

 "The RSA and ASDAN are delighted to be working with schools and businesses across the county to develop a Modern Baccalaureate for Suffolk.

"The bacc will enable young people to record their qualifications, experiences and wider skills, in a way that employers will really understand and value.

"Suffolk is one of only two local authorities in the country which will be piloting the Mod Bacc from 2013. This shows the county's appetite for innovation, and the way that Raising the Bar is already building a momentum for change."

The idea has come to light following discussions between the RSA, school head teachers and staff and local businesses, as part of the independent Raising the Bar commission. 

Geoff Barton, head teacher at King Edwards VI School in Bury St Edmunds, said:

“We all know that Suffolk is a wonderful place in which to live, work - and go to school. But it's also clear that we just don't perform well enough. That's why I really welcome the Raising the Bar initiative which gives us a chance to bring together schools, colleges, parents, governors and - crucially - employers to develop some exciting, distinctive ideas for raising aspirations and improving educational standards. I am delighted to be a part of the project.”

The Suffolk Baccalaureate would be developed in partnership with local employers.

 Erica Clegg, board director of the New Anglia Local Enterprise Partnership and founder of Southwold-based creative agency Spring, said:

“Suffolk's young people need to be prepared for the exciting new employment opportunities that the county will offer over the next years and decades. It's so important that they are ready for the world of work, not just via good grades - though that's important, and opens doors - but through a richer education too.

“I've sensed a great deal of support for Raising the Bar throughout the county's business community, and I believe that together we'll be able to make it a success.”

Cllr Graham Newman on the Suffolk Baccalaureate