New education secretary Nicky Morgan has emphasised the need for rising standards to boost prospects for young people and improve the education system.
Writing in The Telegraph, Ms Morgan criticised the Labour government that preceded the coalition, claiming standards were allowed to fall while ministers "trumpeted ever-higher grades and pass rates".
This state of affairs had the worst impact on pupils from the most disadvantaged backgrounds, she said, as they were encouraged to study subjects that had little or no value to employers but counted as the traditional five GCSEs.
"Education should open up doors for young people, allow them to develop their own unique talents and give them the skills they need to succeed in a 21st century workplace," Ms Morgan stated.
She gave her backing to predecessor Michael Gove's education reforms, which have ensured the exam system "works for children, not politicians".
The education secretary said the government has removed low-quality qualifications from the league tables, reducing the incentive to study them.
In addition, it has clamped down on the practice of "drilling" for exams, letting those in teaching jobs focus on educating their pupils.
Early and repeated re-sits have been eliminated, ensuring youngsters only take exams when they are ready for them, while end-of-term exams have replaced "disjointed, bite-sized modules".
The introduction of the English Baccalaureate has also helped young people by giving them the chance to study a core of high-quality qualifications.
Ms Morgan paid tribute to teachers for enabling schools to adapt to the changes quickly - a process which, she conceded, "hasn't always been easy".
However, she warned that results could alter as the reforms take effect, with the number of students studying some subjects falling and others rising.
Nevertheless, youngsters would have reasons to be proud of their achievements because they would better reflect their efforts. "Each and every single pupil this year can be confident that the results they worked so hard to achieve represent real achievement," she said.
Posted by Theo Foulds