Compulsory GCSE resits in English and maths will not be scrapped in September, a document published by the Education and Skills Funding Agency has confirmed.
Funding regulations published by the ESFA reveal that, following the move to class a grade 4 under the new system as a standard pass, students with a grade 3 or D “must be enrolled on a GCSE, rather than an approved stepping stone qualification”.
The document goes on to add these students "will need to be enrolled on GCSE in both subjects in each academic year” and will be required to "continue to study each subject until they achieve at least a grade 4 in each subject" as a condition for colleges being funded for that student.
The news follows suggestions that the policy was set to be changed for 2017-18, with functional skills to be be made available as an alternative to GCSEs. There has been significant opposition to the current policy from organisations across the FE sector.
'Retake after retake is not the answer'
The 2015-16 year was the first in which it became a condition of colleges' funding that students who had previously achieved a D grade in English or maths should retake the qualification. As a result, the overall number of entries among students aged 17 and over has increased by around a third. In total, 128,201 older learners took GCSE English, while 173,628 sat maths.
The document also points out that the resit policy is being reviewed, and any changes will be "communicated with institutions before the start of the relevant funding year".
It states: "As indicated in the January 2017 industrial strategy green paper, the government is reviewing provision of English and maths for students enrolled in the 16-19 study programme. Any changes as a result of this review, including to align with wider technical education reforms, will be communicated with institutions before the start of the relevant funding year."
A Department for Education spokesperson confirmed that, should the review call for a change in the policy, this could in theory still be introduced in time for the 2017-18 academic year.
Stephen Evans, chief executive of the Learning and Work Institute, said: “Nobody disagrees that all young people should meet a standard in English and maths which gives them the best chance at further learning and a good job. That is the ultimate test of any policy. GCSEs are a widely recognised and understood qualification. But retake after retake is not the answer.
”I support calls for more clarity and flexibility for learners which includes high quality alternative English and maths qualifications which have the confidence of learners and employers. We should have the highest ambition for all learners.”
Catherine Sezen, senior policy manager for 14-19 and curriculum at the Association of Colleges, said: “Colleges and staff will be disappointed that the technical guidance for 2017/18 delivery of English and maths states there will be no flexibility in the grade D condition of funding. The condition will continue to affect thousands of students for whom GCSE is not the best option.
“We would like to draw attention to the paragraph that indicates that the government is reviewing English and maths provision. AoC will continue to work with colleges and speak to the Department for Education officials regarding this important issue.”