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Government to review policy on all students 'passing' GCSE English and maths

The government is reviewing its policy of requiring all post-16 students who failed to get a C grade in GCSE English or maths to retake the qualification, it was announced today.

Speaking at the Association of Colleges’ annual conference in Birmingham, skills minister Nick Boles said he had “listened intently” to concerns about the way the government is implementing the new requirement.

He announced he has commissioned the Education and Training Foundation (ETF) to review the best way to accredit maths and English skills.

Any young person with the chance to get a C grade should be given support to do so, but the ETF will work with employers, colleges and awarding bodies to develop qualifications for those unable to pass the GCSE.

However, he said any alternative qualification for those learners must be “demanding” and not a “soft option”. The requirement will also be waived completely for students on courses of less than 150 hours.

In a statement the ETF said the GCSE is the central qualification in maths and English and more people must be supported to achieve it. 

“But there are other ways for people to improve their English and maths skills, and learners and employees following these routes deserve the very best provision that leads to a qualification employers recognise and respect,” it added.

The ETF aims to produce “preliminary recommendations” by Spring 2015.

The resit requirement has been criticised by some in the FE sector who have said GCSEs are not suitable for learners on vocational courses.

Also speaking at the conference, FE Commissioner David Collins added his weight to the concerns.

He said there was “no point” in putting people who had failed at school through the same syllabus again, and that employers would welcome more relevant maths and English GCSEs.

“I don’t think you need to dilute the standard but change the content,” he said. “In maths for example accounts would be more useful than algebra or trigonometry.”

Martin Doel, chief executive of the Association of Colleges, said: “A flexible approach to the delivery of English and maths qualifications is necessary to ensure that all young people develop relevant skills in line with their career aspirations.

“It is encouraging that there will be a review of the best way to achieve and accredit maths and English skills. A more appropriate qualification should be developed which is understood, recognised and valued by both young people and employers.”

Related stories:

Maths teachers lack confidence and qualifications, report finds – September 2014

Tailor-make exams so they’re ‘fit for purpose’ – September 2014

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