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Thousands of post-16 students fail to gain a C at GCSE maths and English

Tens of thousands of post-16 students forced to retake GCSE maths or English failed to gain a grade C or higher, government figures show.

Last September ministers made it compulsory for students on post-16 courses who had not achieved at least a grade C in either English or maths to continue working towards these qualifications.

But new statistics out today show that just 7 per cent (14,782) of post-16 students secured the floor target at GCSE maths, while only 6.5 per cent (12,244) achieved the grade in English. 

The statistics also showed nearly half of the students who left school without a C in the two subjects were not entered for any English or maths qualification.

In July 2013 there were 211,171 students who left school without a grade C in maths and 188,365 who had not managed a grade C in English.

The numbers come just days after an Ofsted report criticised the inconsistent implementation of the new programmes, which requires learners without grade C in English or maths continuing to work towards it. It said too much teaching in the subjects was not good enough and noted a shortage of good teachers.

Sue Pope, chair of the Association of Teachers of Mathematics, said there needed to be a different approach to the subjects if there was going to be an improvement.

“Schools put such an enormous effort into getting as many children as they can to grade C at age 16, so these numbers are not very surprising as it is such an awful experience for people to repeat what they have already failed,” Dr Pope said.

“The Ofsted report was fairly clear there are quite a lot of issues in terms of adequate provision of teachers. As schools and colleges get more people in and existing staff are upskilled that may get better, but what we really need is a different GCSE for post-16 and mature learners which is fresh and appealing.

“The issue is about providing a worthwhile learning experience for young people post-16 and just retaking the same GCSE that they’ve failed over and over again, is not it.”

Schools minister David Laws said young people “must” have good qualifications in English and maths if they were to get the best start in life.

“These figures show that prior to our reforms too many young people were allowed to give up these subjects without achieving the levels required by employers,” he said.

“Now anyone who fails to get a C in GCSE English or maths must continue studying those subjects. We have invested £30million in the training and recruitment of more teachers for FE colleges including bursaries and ‘Golden Hellos’ to attract and retain the best quality teachers.

“Our reforms are already bearing fruit with the latest figures showing thousands more 17-year-olds are taking GCSEs in those subjects giving them the vital skills they need to get a good job and get on in life.” 

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