GCSE exams in England should be scrapped and replaced with a baccalaureate for school leavers that includes vocational skills and personal development, as part of a radical overhaul proposed by an influential Conservative MP.

Robert Halfon, the MP for Harlow who chairs the House of Commons education select committee, is the first Conservative policymaker to break ranks over the future of GCSE exams, after the government’s efforts to improve their status by making them more difficult.