Ofsted: Teaching to the test hits GCSE resit grades

Ofsted boss Amanda Spielman says she has seen some 'pretty depressing classes' teaching GCSE English and maths resits

Stephen Exley

GCSE results day 2020: How teachers can handle the blame game

Colleges teaching to the test have been a contributing factor behind low GCSE grades in English and maths resits, an Ofsted director has said.

When asked about the English and maths resits policy at the launch of Ofsted’s annual report yesterday, national director for education Sean Harford hit out at classes that “are focusing on the exam questions in the first week, as opposed to actually teaching young people the English and maths they need”.

This “causes difficulty, and I think that approach has led to some of that lower achievement”, he added.


Read more: Ofsted annual report: Colleges improve, ITPs decline

Background: FE providers left for a decade without Ofsted inspection

More news: Ofsted hits back against schools 'narrowing education'


The percentage of students who achieved a grade 4 in their GCSE resits in November dropped compared with the previous year, figures released last week revealed.  At one exam board, less than a quarter of students resitting maths achieved that grade.

Ofsted: Curriculum 'as important post-16'

Students who experience a broad curriculum in the early years of their education are more likely to succeed at GCSE later on, Mr Harford said, adding that curriculum is “as important post-16” as it is in schools.

Chief inspector Amanda Spielman said that, when she has attended GCSE resit classes, the quality of teaching she has witnessed has been variable. “I see great work and I also see sometimes some pretty depressing classes," she added.

“I think the principles that are built into the new inspection framework around adhering to a coherent, well-sequenced curriculum that actually.. matches the starting points and needs of children [has] just as much power there. As Alison Wolf [author of the Wolf Report on vocational education] has said, English and maths are actually the most important vocational qualifications for young people. We do need to do the best we can, in the space of time children and teenagers are in education. There’s still a way to go to get that right for all 16- to 18-year-olds.”

Register to continue reading for free

It only takes a moment and you'll get access to more news, plus courses, jobs and teaching resources tailored to you

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

Latest stories

When it comes to adult community education, it is one step forward, two steps back, says Sue Pember

It's one step forward and two back for adult education

Although Sue Pember is positive about the role of adult education in the future, Covid-19 has reduced participation, and this will add further to the skills problems this nation already has, she writes
Sue Pember 20 Apr 2021