The Association of Employment and Learning Providers (AELP) says that the government is letting a generation of young people down by blindly persisting with its damaging compulsory GCSE resits policy for English and maths.

The association was reacting after JCQ data published today showed that the pass rate for maths retakes (17 year old and over) has fallen by 2.8% from 26.5 to 23.7%.  In raw numbers, 137,000 out of 180,000 entries have resulted in failure.

AELP CEO and former OCR exam board boss Mark Dawe said:

‘Today’s figures underline what a disgraceful policy this has become.  Rather than canning the 3 million apprenticeship target, the government should be dropping damaging policies like resits and allow students to actually learn relevant maths and English through functional skills.

‘We shouldn’t be subjecting tens of thousands of vulnerable young people to multiple failure and demotivating them for another couple of years, so it’s time for the Secretary of State to draw a line through this failed policy.

‘Functional Skills are now harder and more challenging and yet an apprentice only gets funding at half the rate to do their maths and English compared to any other learner, so this needs rectifying as well.’

The pass rate for English GCSE resits saw a small increase to 34.2% but 99,000 out of the 148,000 entries were still ending in failure.  70% of boys are failing to achieve a pass.   

GCSE resit policy must end

After being almost a lone voice on the matter last year, AELP is encouraged that other bodies have since joined it in calling on the government to end its compulsory English and maths GCSE resit policy for young people who stay on in sixth form or college.  It says that the applied alternative of Functional Skills in these subjects should instead be available to everyone, especially as employers of all sizes are happy to recognise them. 

Research for the Department for Education by Impetus-PEF has found students attempting to pass a GCSE in English or maths for the ninth time.  37% of resits in maths were being taken for the third time while for English over a quarter of resits were being sat for the third time.

Mark Dawe commented:

‘We shouldn’t be subjecting tens of thousands of vulnerable young people to multiple failure and demotivating them for another couple of years, so it’s time for the Secretary of State to draw a line through this failed policy.


‘Functional skills are now harder and more challenging and yet an apprentice only gets funding at half the rate to do their maths and English compared to any other learner, so this needs rectifying as well.’


Percentage decreases in apprenticeship starts based on latest official statistics for May 2018 compared with pre-levy May 2016.

Impetus-PEF data on GCSE resits

About The Association of Employment and Learning Providers (AELP): Nationally representing the interests of over 960 organisations delivering vocational learning and employability support for 380,000 employers.  Our training provider members deliver the large majority of Apprenticeships, Traineeships and programmes for the unemployed.  AELP full membership is open to all independent training providers, employer providers, universities, local authorities, FE colleges, awarding bodies and schools engaged in skills and employment.

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