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Employers Call on Government to Improve Basic Skills

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Business leaders are urging the government to concentrate on improving school-leavers literacy and numeracy rather than an over-haul of the exam system.

The CBI was due to make the plea today in response to a government-backed review of qualifications for 14 to 19 year olds - led by former OFSTED head Mike Tomlinson - which is considering replacing the current exam system with a diploma or baccalaureate.

CBI Director-General Digby Jones said he strongly backs the review's objectives of boosting the skills and employability of all young people but employers do not believe scrapping existing qualifications is the way to achieve them.

He said: "Business wants this review to focus on eradicating literacy and numeracy problems and establishing first-class vocational education."

The CBI's submission to the review of 14 to 19 qualifications stresses:
* Employers regard the numbers leaving school without basic skills as a disgrace.
* Half of 16 years olds do not get a GCSE grade C or above in Maths and 44% do not achieve grade C in English. Tackling that is much more important than introducing a
new qualifications framework.
* Around 80% of UK jobs now require competence at level two (five GCSEs at grade C or above). In 2003, 48 per cent of school leavers did not achieve this standard.

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