The government is right to ensure that all students pursue English and maths, but the GCSE resit policy is not working and requires urgent change, an expert panel has concluded.
At a roundtable discussion on the future of post-16 English and maths, co-hosted by TES and UKFEchat, teachers and college leaders, along with representatives from the Association of Colleges (AoC), the Education and Training Foundation (ETF), Ofsted, the Association of Employment and Learning Providers, the NUS students’ union, and the Learning and Work Institute, called on the government to change the policy in time for the start of the new academic year in September.
The conditions of funding for post-16 providers stipulate that students with a grade D in either of the subjects at school must continue to study it as part of their post-GCSE programme. As a result, the number taking GCSEs in colleges has rocketed: there were more than 300,000 entries from 17-plus learners last summer, a third more than in 2015.
At the same time, the pass rate for 17-plus learners in both subjects has dropped, with less than 30 per cent of entries resulting in a grade C or better in English and maths.
The increase in entries has led to significant logistical challenges for colleges, with many being forced to use external venues, hire additional staff and cancel classes in order to accommodate large exam sittings.
And the experts, including shadow FE minister Gordon Marsden, heard concerns that the number of entries was likely to soar further because of the introduction of new tougher GCSEs in English and maths, with the bar for a “good pass” being raised even higher.
The roundtable's recommendations
- The FE sector supports the drive to ensure all students have good qualifications in English and maths.
- The sector supports government work to develop technical and professional education. However, the burden of the GCSE resits condition of funding risks diverting attention and resources away from these vital initiatives.
- Teachers should be given the professional autonomy to decide whether GCSE is the most appropriate programme for individual learners.
- Students should be allowed to take other qualifications where appropriate. We would support this change being brought in for 2017-18.
- Reformed functional skills qualifications should be made available as an alternative to GCSE
The ETF attended the roundtable in an advisory capacity.
This is an edited version of an article in the 10 February edition of TES. Subscribers can read the full story here. To subscribe, click here. To download the digital edition, Android users can click here and iOS users can click here. TES magazine is available at all good newsagents.