Best Practice

The Forgotten Third: The students destined to fail – and what we can do about it...

The 2019 Forgotten Third inquiry laid bare the injustice facing those students who are destined to fail their GCSEs in English and maths. Chair of the report group, Professor Roy Blatchford, has now written a book looking at what schools can do to improve the life chances of the forgotten third...


Without a GCSE paper having been taken by a single student, a third of 16-year-olds this summer have been awarded grades 1, 2 and 3 in English and mathematics. It is the same every year and is a withering indictment of our system of “comparable outcomes”.

It remains the case that “the long tail of underachievement” casts a shadow over UK education which we need to address in a fresh and radical fashion.

We do not have to fail a third, for two-thirds to pass. It is not a necessity but a political choice. So system change is needed – and quickly.

What do we do in the meantime – this academic year – to beat against the current, to improve the lifelong learning opportunities of the forgotten third? Here are four key pillars for change which my new book – The Forgotten Third – proposes (2020; see also ASCL, 2019).

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