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The new government should reverse the new condition of funding on GCSE resits, says AoC

Students sat in a test

The new government should reverse the additional English and maths condition of funding announced earlier this year and work with colleges to design a better policy.

In a new report, English and maths: towards 100% success, AoC calls for the immediate withdrawal of the new condition of funding to give colleges the flexibility they need to support student achievement in English and maths.

AoC also sets out the challenges of the current system, and short- and medium-term actions the government can take to reform the qualifications and policy for the better.

Around a third of 16-year-olds do not achieve a grade 4 or above at English and maths at the end of Year 11, and therefore have to resit these exams at college. This condition of funding has been in place for 10 years.

AoC, and the wider further education sector, has been vocal about the challenges the GCSE resit policy poses for colleges: students are often disengaged and unmotivated, with low self-esteem and confidence, colleges don’t have enough English and maths teachers and the £9,000 pay gap between school and college teachers exacerbates the problem, and the sheer scale of students who need to resit exams means that colleges are struggling to accommodate students for both teaching and on exam days, and offer exam access arrangements.

In the short-term, the AoC recommends that:

  • the new condition of funding requirements must be withdrawn immediately because it is not deliverable and there is no evidence that it is the best way to support progress for the cohort. Colleges should be able to utilise the additional funding to best meet student needs in their context, and in their experience of what works for their learners.
  • the Department for Education (DfE) should work with colleges, supported by organisations such as the Education Endowment Foundation, to explore the evidence of what works with different groups of learners. That evidence should be presented to colleges to help them determine the best way to maximise achievement and progress. Colleges should be trusted to do this work to their best abilities

In the medium-term, the AoC recommends that:

  • a review of both pre- and post-16 English and maths qualifications should be a priority as part of any further work on qualification and curriculum reform.
  • the review should take into consideration student voice and include the experience of staff, student destinations and employer needs.
  • qualifications should prepare students with the English and maths skills they will need for future life and work.
  • any new approach should allow for flexible forms of assessment which can motivate students and support progression.
  • there should be a comprehensive plan to support staff recruitment and retention and a nationwide CPD offer.

Cath Sezen, Director of Education Policy at Association of Colleges, said:

“Every college wants their students to progress in English and maths, but the current policy is too blunt and does not work. At AoC we have long been calling for a full and comprehensive review of the GCSE resit policy because the system simply does not work for enough students and with the right co-design we know we can do better.

“For real change to, we want to be part of a full review of all pre-16 English and maths qualifications which considers transitions at the age of 16, wider student experience, assessment methods, new technology and essential skills which meet employer needs.

“A review in partnership with the education sector will produce the best results, allowing learning to come from research, experience and people who know what the challenges are in the classroom.

“Our recommendations reflect the strength of feeling in colleges for urgent change and are based on policy expertise and evidence. I’m looking forward to working with the next government to ensure that colleges can support 100% of students to progress in English and maths, and colleges are ready to work with them to achieve this.”

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