Taking GCSE exams at the age of 14 will lead to fewer pupils dropping out of school, it has been suggested.
Speaking at the North of England Education Conference in Blackpool, former education secretary Estelle Morris said sitting the tests at 16 does not make sense, the Guardian reports.
She said pupils should take exams in a broad range of subjects at the age of 14 as this would allow students suited to practical courses to begin studying them at an earlier stage.
"We have been trying for over a decade not to get children to leave school at 16 ... so why are we still running a leaving exam at 16?" the Labour peer commented.
"The Tories aren't going to repeal legislation on staying on until 18, so it makes a nonsense of GCSEs."
GCSE pass rates in England increased for the 23rd consecutive year in 2010.