Headteachers have expressed frustration at the government’s accusation that schools and colleges have “allowed” thousands of students to drop English and maths post-16 despite not having achieved a C grade.
Figures released by the Department for Education (DfE) this week detail the numbers of students who drop the subjects in their further education despite not having achieved Cs. The data relates to students who took GCSEs in 2010.
Overall the figures show that of 222,117 students (34 per cent) who missed out on a C in English, only eight per cent went on to achieve this benchmark, and
85 per cent chose not retake GCSE English post-16 at all.
For mathematics, 244,231 16-year-olds (37 per cent) missed out on a C in 2010 with only seven per cent going on to achieve this by 18. Some 83 per cent did not take a maths GCSE post-16.
As well as the headline figures, the DfE has also published for the first time statistics showing the break down per institution.
However, the DfE’s announcement said the figures “expose for the first time the colleges and school sixth forms who have allowed tens of thousands of young people to drop English and maths”.
The accusation is controversial, given that the students involved were free to choose their further education study options and drop English and maths if they wished.
Brian Lightman, general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders, said seeking to apportion blame was “not helpful”.
He also argued that most school 6th forms do actually require students to continue studying the subjects if they have yet to achieve a C grade.
He explained: “The fact of the matter is that schools with 6th forms almost invariably require students to continue with English and maths if they have not reached a C grade or above.
“As far as colleges are concerned, obviously it has been up to the students to opt-in to these courses and the government has now changed the regulations.
“This is a big challenge and it is not helpful to seek to apportion blame for what still has to be achieved.”
Under new rules, from this term, all students who do not attain a C grade in their GCSE English and maths examinations must continue to study the subjects up until the age of 19 or until they reach the benchmark.
Elsewhere, the DfE figures show, in particular, that 71,000 young people who achieved a D in GCSE English – just missing out on the C benchmark – subsequently chose to drop the subject. Meanwhile, 54,000 who scored a D in maths did not continue studying the subject during their further education. These figures represent 71 and 66 per cent of the total students who achieved a D in English and maths respectively.
Schools minister David Laws said: “English and maths are what employers demand before all other subjects – if young people want to get on in life, they must be able to show they have good literacy and numeracy. Colleges and 6th forms should be clear with their students that these are essential subjects and must be continued.”
To see the data, visit www.gov.uk/government/publications/level-1-and-2-attainment-in-english-and-mathematics-by-16-to-18-students-academic-year-2011-to-2012