GCSE resits: Pass rates plummet after rise in college English and maths entries

But 85,000 students aged 17 and over achieved good GCSE passes in English or maths this summer, new figures reveal

Julia Belgutay

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The proportion of older students achieving A*-C grades in English and maths GCSEs has dropped significantly following a dramatic increase in resits.

This is the first year that it has been a condition of colleges' funding that students who have not previously achieved a C grade in English or maths should retake the qualification.

As a result, the overall number of entries among students aged 17 and over increased by around a third. In total, 128,201 older learners took GCSE English, while 173,628 sat maths, representing increases of 32 per cent and 33 per cent respectively. Around three quarters of these entries were in colleges.

Figures released this morning by JCQ show that 26.9 per cent of students aged 17 and over achieved an A*-C pass in their English GCSE exams this year, compared to 35.1 per cent last year. In maths, the A*-C pass rate among 17-plus learners was 29.5 per cent, down by 6.3 percentage points from last year.

However, the students resitting English and maths GCSEs in colleges failed to achieved good passes during their time at school.

In total, 51,220 learners aged 17 and over achieved a pass at grade C or better in maths this year, with 34,486 more achieving a good pass in English. Many of these learners were resitting the qualification in college, having failed to obtain a grade C during their time at school.

The downward trend in the results of older learners had a significant impact on the overall A*-C pass rates. In English, the pass rate at C and above dropped to 60.2 per cent from 65.4 per cent last year, while in maths it fell from 63.3 per cent to 61 per cent. 

Among 16-year-old students, largely taking the qualifications for the first time in school, the A*-C pass rate was 71.3 per cent for English, down from 72.6 per cent last year, and 70.5 per cent for maths, up from 69.1 per cent in 2015.

Record entries

School standards minister Nick Gibb said there had been "4,000 more successful retakes" of GCSE maths this year, "delivering better prospects for every one of those young people".

In June, TES revealed that the number of GCSE entries at colleges in these subjects rose by 40 per cent this year. Colleges have repeatedly stated their commitment to delivering the new policy, despite the significant challenges it creates. Many colleges have been forced to hire external venues or cancel classes in order to find sufficient space for the increased cohort of learners to sit the GCSEs exams.

Earlier this month, TES highlighted a number of colleges who, despite predominantly teaching learners who arrived at college having failed to get a GCSE in school, managed to last year beat the national pass rate, with some even exceeding the pass rate for schools.

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Julia Belgutay

Julia Belgutay

Julia Belgutay is head of FE at Tes

Find me on Twitter @JBelgutay

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