Certificate of Secondary Education

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The Certificate of Secondary Education (CSE) was an academic qualification awarded in England, Wales, and Northern Ireland. This qualification should not be confused with the Indian Certificate of Secondary Education which is the school leaving qualification in India.[1]

It was introduced to provide a qualification available to all schoolchildren distinct from the GCE (O-Levels) that were aimed at the more able pupils, mostly those at grammar and independent school (rather than secondary modern schools) aiming for places at a university.[2] Before the introduction of the CSE, the majority of those schoolchildren at secondary modern schools did not take O-Level examinations and so left school without any qualifications at all.[2] However, by the late 1960s and early 1970s, counties frequently had introduced their own examinable qualifications for the bulk of Secondary Modern School pupils who left in 'Form Four' (at 15 years of age). For example, the county of Monmouthshire in Wales awarded the Monmouthshire Certificate in Education.

There were five pass grades in its grading system ranging from grades 1 to 5, with grades 2 to 3 being recognised with equivalence to the three (later two: D and E) lowest O-Level pass grades (of which there were originally six, later five, A, B, C, D and E).

Achieving CSE grade 1 was equivalent to achieving an O level in the subject where the student may have reasonably gained an A, B or C grade had they taken an O-level course of study in the same subject. Gaining a CSE Grade 1 therefore implied that that student should have followed an O level course in that subject. This often caused frustration for such pupils wishing to progress to A-level, who (due to incompatibilities in the syllabi) would need to take a 1-year O-level conversion course in the Lower Sixth and thus waste a year gaining a qualification they theoretically already held.

However, the range of courses for CSE was wider than that for the O-level and included many vocational subjects, such as car maintenance which were not available at O-level. As the comprehensive schools gradually replaced secondary modern schools, pupils could increasingly take a mixture of CSEs and O-levels until finally the examinations were merged with the new GCSE certification courses.

CSEs and O-levels were replaced by the General Certificate of Secondary Education (GCSE).[2]