Ofsted questions English and maths GCSE resits policy

'It’s fair to ask whether GCSE is the right qualification for everybody,' says deputy director for FE and skills Paul Joyce

Stephen Exley

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There are "serious questions" to be answered about the GCSE resits policy in English and maths, according to a senior Ofsted official.

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".

"I will certainly be providing some evidence in our annual report as to the effect of that GCSE English and maths policy, and whether it’s doing the job or not," he said. "Because I think here are some serious questions to ask.

"We are a few years into this policy. I think it’s fair to ask whether GCSE is the right qualification for everybody. I think it’s also fair to ask: is it a realistic expectation that everybody with a D grade can actually achieve a C grade?"

Plunging pass rates

In 2015-16, it became a condition of colleges’ funding that any students who had not achieved at least a grade C in either of the subjects while at school should resit it.

Consequently, the overall number of GCSE entries among students aged 17 and over in the two subjects this summer increased by about a third from the previous year. In total, 128,201 older learners took GCSE English, while 173,628 sat maths.

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 went down from 35.8 per cent to 29.5 per cent.

Mr Joyce continued: "I think it’s something the sector continues to struggle with. And I think we need to ask the question: is the policy right? Is the direction of travel right? And what have we got to do, to either get those results better, or to find a more fitting solution to enable learners’ English and maths skills to be developed further?"

Mr Joyce also told the conference that he and Ofsted inspectors "really have to take our hats off to the way the sector has really coped with that significant increase in numbers".

He added: "The logistics of getting that many people into examination halls, in terms of transport, invigilators, everything else…A real demonstration, there, of how seriously the sector is taking it and how well you are coping with those arrangements."

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Stephen Exley

Stephen Exley

Stephen Exley is a freelance writer, director of external affairs at Villiers Park Educational Trust and former FE editor at Tes.

Find me on Twitter @stephenexley

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