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Do GCSE English and Maths Resits Set Students Up To Fail?

Do GCSE English and Maths Resits Set Students Up To Fail?

The exam board NCFE have launched a campaign to explore whether functional skills could be offered as alternatives to maths and English at GCSE level. The campaign calls for the reformed functional skills qualifications to be offered as alternatives for all students who are unable to achieve a grade 4 (or C) pass.

To support the campaign, which is using #FullyFunctional across social media, NCFE have published the results of a survey which states that 60% of the students surveyed feel they should have the option to study non-GSCE qualifications in these two subjects. This survey gathered responses from 2,000 young people, and 70% stated that “students should be able to learn in a style that suits them and that English and maths should be easily applicable to everyday life.” The same percentage argued that they had been pressured to resit a GCSE in English, maths or science if they had failed to achieve a standard pass at their first attempt.

As it stands today, funding for 16-19 year olds states that those who achieved grade 2 or below can take functional skills, and anyone with a grade 3 (or D) must resit their GCSEs. Last summer, research from education charity Impetus revealed that some GCSE students has resat their exams as many as nine times.

MD of NCFE Stewart Foster has said:

“The pressure to resit GCSEs can be hugely overwhelming. One size doesn’t fit all, and we need to recognise that the current system is setting some students up to fail…Alternative qualifications like functional skills ensure that students adopt good standards of numeracy and literacy, whilst being taught the practical skills they need to progress through to further education or work. Functional skills are already an option for those who achieve a grade 2 or below, so we’d like to see it extended to those who have failed to achieve higher than grade 3. Students shouldn’t have to keep resitting their exams.”

In his support for the #FullyFunctional campaign, Chief Executive of the Association of Employment and Learning Providers mark Dawe has stated:

“We are happy to support this campaign because every year we wonder how the government can accept another 150,000 GCSE failures and talk about a successful resits policy,” he said. “It is not the FE sector’s fault that GCSE retakes don’t work; it is what providers have inherited and the design of a qualification that isn’t fit for purpose alongside the development of real workplace skills. AELP advocates an initial assessment for those 16-year olds that get a D or grade 3 to decide whether they should do a resit or learn functional skills.”

Just this February, the GCSE resit policy was changed to reflect that if a student achieved a grade 2 qualification in English or maths, they would no longer be required to work towards a GCSE qualification.

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