Teenagers in England who fail to achieve at least a grade C in English and maths GCSEs will have to continue studying the subjects from this term. It means hundreds of thousands of youngsters in school and college will have to carry on with the subjects until the age of 18.
Employers have warned that young people need to improve these skills. Education Secretary Michael Gove said the subjects were the ones “employers demand before all others”.
Head teachers said they supported the principle of the change but there was “genuine confusion” about how it would be implemented.
Up until now, pupils have been able to drop the subjects at the age of 16 without having gained a qualification in them. Many would never study these subjects again, prompting concerns from employers’ organisations that too many young people lack literacy and numeracy skills necessary for work. Last year, there were more than a quarter of a million 19-year-olds without a C grade in English and maths.
Teenagers who missed C grades will either re-take GCSEs in maths and English, or else there will be an option to take other types of maths and English lessons. But they will be required to continue studying the subjects. Skills minister Matthew Hancock said the requirement to keep studying English and maths was not about re-sitting exams but about continuing to develop these essential skills. “For those who fail to get a C at GCSE, it’s a huge impairment to their future life, their ability to participate not just in work but also as a citizen,” he said. Mr Hancock also said that most of those who did not attain a grade C at the age of 16 continued to a further education college and there was a programme to increase the number of English and maths teachers at those institutions.
Brian Lightman, leader of the Association of School and College Leaders, said the “aim is right, but there are many questions the government needs to address urgently about how it will fund and implement its plan”. The head teachers’ leader said there needed to be clarification about funding for extra classes and teachers. “There is still genuine confusion about the announcement today and what the new policy means, on the day that schools and colleges are supposed to start implementing it,” said Mr Lightman.
I can see where the confusion lies here. This is other announcement by the government that says ‘schools must do this’ with no clear strategy put forward on how this is going to work. Well, if you asked me I think it depends on the nature of the children and how far they missed the grade. If they got a D grade and only missed out on a C by a few marks, I don’t think they need a huge amount of classes just to pick up a few extra marks. If they missed the cut by a couple of grades then obviously there is serious concern there. However I fear the government are forgetting that the highest possible grade in a Foundation Tier paper is a C, which means that teenagers are put under serious pressure to get the top marks otherwise they will have to carry on with the subject. This means that potentially they could be taking 3 A levels and a GCSE retake from what it looks like to me. A possible solution to how this is to be implemented is to do the extra classes after school, a bit like a ‘Twilight’ subject taught like I have seen in a couple of schools I’ve mentored in previously.