The SecEd Podcast: The Forgotten Third

Written by: Pete Henshaw | Published:

The latest edition of the SecEd Podcast looks at why a third of GCSE students are guaranteed to fail every year – and what we can do about it...

In this SecEd Podcast, Matt Bromley interviews former headteacher, David Birch, about his work as part of the Forgotten Third Commission, which looked into how to improve the prospects of students who do not achieve at least a Grade 4 pass in GCSE English and maths (see

The fact that this represents about a third of 16-year-olds year-in, year-out is not an accident but the product of the system of comparable outcomes whereby the spread of GCSE grades is pegged to what cohorts of similar ability achieved in the past.

The Commission points out that young people who fall below this bar pay a high price and its report focused specifically on how we can do better for these students in respect of English, though many of its observations could also be applied to maths.
David talks to Matt about each of the commission’s findings and brings us up to date with the group’s work, including the recent creation of a Passport in English.

The discussion also touches upon Pupil Premium practice, including the problems of an intervention-heavy approach ahead of a focus on the quality of teaching and learning and cultural capital and aspiration.

You can listen to The SecEd Podcast below. To hear other SecEd podcasts, or to subscribe for free to new editions, search for 'The SecEd Podcast' in your podcast application of choice. Or visit

For details about The SecEd Podcast, or to suggest future topics, email editor Pete Henshaw at


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