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GCSE results: Government resits policy branded ‘a disgrace’

Mark Dawe

Less than a quarter of Maths re-takers passing and school leavers are the biggest losers from crash in apprenticeship opportunities, so the government must respond. Contributor Mark Dawe, CEO AELP and former OCR exam board boss.

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.

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.

School leavers losing out on slump in apprenticeship opportunities
Young people wanting to start earning while learning in an apprenticeship rather than stay on to do A levels may have to think again after receiving their GCSE results.

The latest official monthly data shows that apprenticeship opportunities for 16 to 18 year olds are down 41% compared with pre-levy provision while starts at the intermediate (starter) level have fallen by 56%.

The spread of apprenticeship opportunities left across the country has also become very uneven because most of the large levy-paying employers who now account for the majority of them are located in London and the south east or in larger cities elsewhere.

The Association of Employment and Learning Providers (AELP), whose members train 3 out of every 4 apprentices in England, says that the mishandling of the apprenticeship levy reforms is causing the sharp fall in numbers and is seriously undermining the government’s social mobility credentials.  Furthermore it is not helping the recruitment and training strategies of important sectors such as hospitality and social care which are most affected by Brexit.

AELP is calling on the government to urgently review its levy reforms to restore the number of apprenticeships which were previously being offered by small and medium sized businesses across all areas of the country.  It also wants ministers to bring back the incentives that encouraged firms to recruit young apprentices, especially those from disadvantaged backgrounds.

AELP CEO Mark Dawe said: ‘Downing Street may have consigned the 3 million target to the scrap heap, but apprenticeship opportunities aren’t even at previous levels.  This is tragic when so much effort is being poured into persuading teachers and parents that their children can be making a very sensible choice when opting for an apprenticeship.

‘Ministers are now talking much more about quality than quantity but even on this, they should be very careful.  If certain funding rates under review are cut without recognition of the real costs involved, employers and providers will not be able to deliver good quality training and this would be extremely damaging to the reputation of apprenticeships.’

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