Pressure is growing for the government to scrap its policy of compulsory GCSE English and maths resits.
An unprecedented alliance of sector bodies and unions has told TES that it believes the contentious policy should be changed and an alternative qualification permitted for learners who have not achieved a C grade in either subject.
A new report backed by senior figures in the sector, shared exclusively with TES, also concludes that a rethink on resits is needed.
The groundswell of opposition comes after a senior Ofsted official this week said there were “serious questions” about the policy.
The overall number of GCSE entries among students aged 17 and above in the two subjects increased by about a third from the previous year. The A*-C pass rate in English dropped to 26.9 per cent from 35.1 per cent the previous year, while in maths it fell from 35.8 per cent to 29.5 per cent.
Speaking at the UKFEchat conference in London on Saturday, Paul Joyce, the inspectorate’s deputy director for FE and skills, said that Ofsted’s annual report in December would consider whether the policy was “doing the job or not”.
After being contacted by TES, several sector bodies said that they felt the government should change the current resits policy. These included: the Association of Colleges, the Association of Employment and Learning Providers, Landex, the University and College Union, the ATL teaching union, Holex and the Association of School and College Leaders.
A Landex spokesperson said: "Reinforcing failure by requiring [students] to repeat, unsuccessfully, GCSE English and maths qualifications is not the best way of rectifying that."
The report by the Skills Commission, made up of sector leaders and politicians, concludes that there is no value – “rather, there is likely a cost” – in entering a young person for an exam they have little chance of passing.
"A Spotlight On…Young People" says that the Department for Education and Ofqual should consider whether a post-16 modular GCSE should be introduced for learners retaking English and maths GCSEs. Dame Ruth Silver, who co-chairs the Skills Commission, said functional skills could be another alternative to GCSE.
She added: “Creating more appropriate pathways and programmes of learning, which are not dominated by a bias towards GCSE yet emphasise the importance of literacy and numeracy, could help engage learners better and see them progress further throughout their time in FE.”
A Department for Education spokesperson said: “School-leavers who achieve their GCSEs significantly increase their chances of securing a good job, an apprenticeship or progressing to further learning. Thanks to our reforms, thousands more students are successfully resitting their maths and English GCSEs each year.
“We are working closely with the post-16 sector to address the issues that are holding back the progress of students in securing the basics of maths and English."
This is an edited version of an article in the 28 October issue of TES. Subscribers can read the full version 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.
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