Repeated GCSE resits 'could harm student health'

Students taking vocational qualifications more likely to have poor health than those on academic courses, research shows

Make sure repeated GCSE resits don't hit student health, says Education Policy Institute

The government must ensure that “repeated GCSE resits do not adversely affect young people’s wellbeing”, a new report claims.

Students taking vocational qualifications are more likely to have poor health outcomes over the long term than those taking academic courses, according to a new report by the Education Policy Institute.

The document concludes that many of those taking vocational qualifications “struggle to progress through education, and require further support to develop critical life skills”.

The EPI report also states that the recent £400 million increase in 16-19 funding fails to provide the long-term settlement needed to improve outcomes.


More news: GCSE results: English and maths resits pass rates drop

Background: GCSE English and maths: do I need to resit them?

Opinion: 'Soul-destroying GCSE resits are a national scandal'


GCSE resits affecting wellbeing?

“In the UK, at the age of 30, those who left with the lowest education levels have a life expectancy four years lower than those educated to the highest levels,” the report states. “Students on vocational routes are disproportionately represented among this lower-educated group.”

The report highlights how per-student funding in FE fell by 9 per cent in real terms between 2012-13 and 2018-19, from £5,870 to £5,320. The £400 million increase announced by chancellor Sajid Javid “is a one-year commitment, and only repairs a quarter of real-terms funding cuts for 16-19 education since 2010-11”, the report states, adding that “a more enduring financial settlement to sustain quality provision in the long term” is needed.

The EPI says the government should retain the ambition of “all young people passing English and maths GCSE by age 19 – but it must monitor how this is improving young people’s employment prospects, and ensure repeated GCSE resits do not adversely affect young people’s wellbeing”.

A report published in October by the Department for Education said that a third of students resitting their English and maths GCSEs this summer fared worse than on the previous time they sat the qualification – a higher proportion than managed to improve their grade.

Vocational students 'face challenges'

The government should also offer maintenance loans to those over age 19 pursuing intermediate vocational qualifications, the EPI report says.

Report author David Robinson, EPI’s director of post-16 education and skills, said: “This report shows that young people in vocational routes face many more challenges than those in ‘traditional’ academic routes. Students are less likely to progress in education, secure fewer life skills, and have more limited employment opportunities. As a result, the health outcomes of this student group are likely to be worse than their academic peers.” 

Jo Bibby, director of health at the Health Foundation, which commissioned the study, said: “The debate around education is too often narrowly focused on what students will earn in the future and those completing ‘traditional’ academic routes. This report highlights the need to broaden the discussion to include all young people and all education pathways.”

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