Business Bosses Slate 'School Exams Factory'
Britain's education system is fostering a "cult of the average", failing to help the brightest youngsters or those most in need, business leaders have warned.
In a new report, the CBI says too many children fall behind and never catch up, and that in some cases, secondary schools have become little more than exam factories.
Decades of "patchwork" reforms have confused schools, encouraged a tick box culture that has put off teachers and resulted in a narrow focus on exams and league tables, the UK's biggest business group adds.
The report calls for a major overhaul to ensure that all children can succeed.
It recommends radical changes, such as reducing the importance of GCSEs and making A-levels the main exam for school leavers, and moving away from league tables in favour of Ofsted reports.
"The education system fosters a cult of the average: too often failing to stretch the most able or support those that need most help," the CBI says.
CBI director-general John Cridland said, while businesses want school leavers to have a rigorous education, they also want it to be "rounded and grounded".
"Today we have a system where, sadly, a large minority of our young people fall behind," he said.
"They fall behind and never catch up. It's not the fault of any individual concerned. It's not the fault of children, parents or teachers. It's a system failure. It's not acceptable any more than it's not acceptable that the top 10% are not stretched enough."
Mr Cridland added: "This generation of young people are as streetwise as any, but sometimes in the education system we're not always bottling that.
"In some cases, secondary schools have become an exam factory. Qualifications are important, but we also need people who have self-discipline and serve customers well."
Ministers have announced plans to scrap GCSEs and replace them with new English Baccalaureate Certificates in English, maths and science. Reviews of A-levels and the national curriculum are also under way.
Mr Cridland said: "Government reforms are headed in the right direction, but are not sufficient on their own. They need to go further and they need to go faster."