Conservative Home have done an analysis of our exam systems and Michael Gove's recent comments. I broadly agree with it.
There can be little doubt that the credibility of GCSEs and A Levels has diminished. That is in no way a slight on students. We have some remarkable students who will deal with whatever exam system is put in front of them, but the best of them are not stretched sufficiently. I can use a personal example here. My daughter achieved remarkable GCSE (11 A*, 2 A and 1B) and A level results (2 A* 1A). Obviously I was and am delighted with those - and she is an amazing academic. But with hindsight you have to reflect on whether she could have been stretched and tested a little more. Not because of the school she went to (Sir Harry Smith Community College did a grand job) but because they were working to an exam system that doesn't stretch sufficiently.
I remember taking my daughter around Cambridge when she was applying and hearing someone talk about the weight they give to the International Baccalaureate - because its standards have been maintained over the years. Again, that is not the fault of Cambridge University - but it does perhaps highlight one of the reasons why state schools students do not get places in top Universities. (my daughter is now very, very happy at Edinburgh University - so I have no gripes here!!).
It is not because of our students that our system has to change, it is FOR our students. They deserve to be tested in a system that has international and academic credibility and the best of our students deserve to be stretched and tested more than they are at present.