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Pimlico Plumbers founder says exams fiasco is a “great opportunity” to ditch uni plans and take up an apprenticeship

PIMLICO Plumbers boss Charlie Mullins has today said the school results fiasco is a “great opportunity” for students to ditch their university plans and take up an apprenticeship.

Mr Mullins said teachers were wrong to push students into university ahead of picking up a trade.

“Often, they’re going to go to university, pick up a Mickey Mouse degree, get in debts of £40,000 or £50,000 with no work experience,” he told Sky News from his holiday home in Marbella, Spain.

“With an apprenticeship, you’re earning while you’re learning, and a future employer will always take on somebody that’s been in the workplace.

“I think it’s over-promoted, the university side of it. There’s life without a degree.”

The recent results fiasco – where thousands of furious students received lower-than-expected marks before a government U-turn to scrap a controversial grades algorithm – was a chance for school leavers to look at options other than university, Mr Mullins said.

“It’s a great opportunity now for so many youngsters to perhaps change their thoughts about university and go for something [where] they’re never going to be out of work, they’re going to earn lots of money,” he said.

“The skill shortage is incredible out there, which means they can go anywhere in the world now with an apprenticeship.”

Mr Mullins, 67, left school without any qualifications when he was 15.

He set up Pimlico Plumbers in 1979 from an estate agent’s basement, and he is now worth an estimated £70 million.

His comments come as a quarter of GCSE pupils received top results today after the botched marking system was dropped.

A whopping 25 per cent of all GCSEs received level 7 or above – the equivalent of As and A*s.

It follows the government’s decision to ditch A-level and GCSE grades generated by computers after thousands of results were downgraded last week.

The alternative grading system was used after the coronavirus pandemic forced exams to be cancelled.

Meanwhile, former education secretary Lord Baker said this morning he doesn’t think GCSEs will last.

He told Good Morning Britain: “I think GCSEs will eventually be faded out.

Comparing the number of 16-year-old school leavers now to those who left school at 16 when GCSEs were first introduced, Lord Baker said that nowadays: “93 per cent stay on, 7 per cent leave, so you don’t need a leaving certificate at 16. You need a very good one at 18.”

Schools Minister Nick Gibb apologised to GCSE and A-level students this morning for the “pain and the anxiety” they felt prior to this week’s exam grading U-turn.

He told BBC Breakfast: “To those hundreds of thousands of young people receiving their GCSE grades and the A level students receiving recalculated grades, I will say this to them, congratulations on what you have achieved.

“But also how sorry I am for the pain, the anxiety and the uncertainty that they will have suffered as a consequence of the grading issues we encountered last week.

“And to reassure them that we are doing everything we can to put these matters right.”

The Shadow Secretary of state for Education slammed the government for the fiasco this morning.

Speaking to Good Morning Britain, Kate Green said: “I think it’s utterly outrageous, it’s chaos after chaos now. Our young people are psyching themselves up for their results, wanting to plan their futures and the next step in their studies and being let down again and again by the government.

“They are in the middle of an utter fiasco that’s in no way their making.”

It was reported last night that Education Secretary Gavin Williamson was warned of the results fiasco weeks before.

The education secretary has defied calls to resign over the results debacle and is now said to be “on his last life” – with a likelihood of being sacked next month.

Ofqual’s own testing of the model found the accuracy of the model used to grade students to be between 50 and 60 per cent.

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