Lindsey Johnson, vice-principal for curriculum and quality, West Suffolk College: “This year, we have 56,000 students with a D in English and 75,000 with a D in maths, and that is impacting on the FE and skills sector. Historically, the way colleges delivered maths and English was using vocational teachers to deliver functional skills in a vocational context. In short, we just don’t have enough specialist GCSE maths and English teachers to cope.”
Paul Joyce, deputy director for FE and skills, Ofsted: “The policy intent to improve literacy and numeracy skills is absolutely the right one. We have questioned whether the policy is working and whether it has its desired impact. There is a growing evidence base that this is not the case…We know it can be very difficult to get students to become enthused and to attend some of those classes, and it is starting to impact on the broader aspects of the study programme for their main qualification aim.”
Ray Goodman, head of school of GCSE, English and maths, City College Norwich: “We have currently around 4,000 students enrolled in English and maths GCSE and functional skills qualifications. So many of our learners came into us with that D grade – and, as everyone knows, that D grade is a vast chasm. On results day, I watched student after student getting a D grade again. We have taken away the choice they have, we have taken away relevance and we have put them in to do something that, in their minds, they haven’t made progress with.”
Ian Ashman, president, Association of Colleges: “We need something that is clear, that is workable, that is a well-respected alternative to GCSEs that allows for more contextualisation in teaching English and maths. This should be something that will take account of and fit in with the new technical routes, and something that ultimately enables more young people and adults to achieve English and maths qualifications. That is where we think the policy is failing.”
Mark Dawe, chief executive, Association of Employment and Training Providers: “Employers don’t say they will only accept GCSE. They are happy with functional skills. Functional skills allows for teaching in context. If you are asking a plumber something about baking cakes, it doesn’t work.