Update on maths and English provision in post-16 education

Wed Jul 23 11:30:00 UTC 2014

The Minister of State for Skills and Enterprise, Matthew Hancock, has announced proposals to improve post-16 numeracy and literacy, and increase the uptake of reformed GCSEs in these subjects.

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The main purpose of this proposal is to increase the number of learners gaining a GCSE grade A*-C in both maths and English.  Currently:

  • 40% of pupils do not get GCSE grades A* to C in English and maths by the age of 16

  • 90% of those who don't reach this basic standard by 16, do not achieve it by the age of 19.

From August 2014, students who have not achieved a good pass in GCSE English and/or maths by the age of 16 must continue workings towards achieving these qualifications, or an approved interim qualification, as a 'stepping stone’ towards GCSE, in order for student places to be funded.

The new reformed GCSEs in English and maths will be available for first teaching in schools from September 2015, with the first examinations in summer 2017. These new GCSEs will be introduced into post-16 education in phases between 2015 and 2020.

With effect from August 2015, we will amend the funding condition, so full-time 16-19 students with prior attainment of grade D in English and/or maths will take GCSE, rather than any other qualification in these subjects.

We will further revise the funding conditions relating to the teaching of the new GCSEs in English and maths for 16 to 19 year olds enrolling for full-time courses from August 2017.

The government's ambition is that adults aged 19 and over and apprentices of all ages studying English and maths will be working towards achievement of the reformed GCSEs by by 2020, taking stepping-stone qualifications if necessary. Functional skills will continue to be part of apprenticeship completion requirements, but we will work with apprenticeship providers to enable them to offer GCSEs to their apprentices.

There is also a high-quality new core maths qualification being introduced. This is aimed at the 40% of young people who achieve a C or better at GCSE but do not take A level maths (2015).

The government is to launch a call for evidence, so that it can draw in advice from a wide range of stakeholders on how to reach this goal for young people, adults and in apprenticeships, and how far the new GCSEs meet the functional skill requirements of all adults and apprentices. In response to this call for evidence, we want stakeholders to advise us on how to ensure that all parts of the sector are ready to deliver against this new ambition. 

In addition as part of the government's plans to support these changes, they are publishing the Further Education Workforce Strategy.

This will set out the steps to improve the quantity and quality of teachers to support the delivery of maths and English in order to:

  • increase business engagement in FE (further education)
  • improve the quality of leadership and governance
  • enhance the use and effectiveness of technology to support teaching and learning.

Read more about the government's strategy to support workforce excellence in further education.

From the beginning of academic year 2015 to 2016, providers who teach English and maths GCSE to adults aged 19 and over outside apprenticeships will receive a higher rate of funding through the adult skills budget. In line with the policy outlined above, the government will cease to fund level 2 Qualifications and Credit Framework (QCF) English and maths qualifications from the same point so that adults studying at level 2 will either take functional skills or GCSE.

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