Year 11 GCSE Rescue: Delivering core subject GCSE qualifications for vulnerable and challenging pupils

Written by: Gareth Lucas-Howells | Published:

In September 2019, a report by the children’s commissioner for England, highlighted the fact that almost one in five children (18 per cent) left school last year without five good GCSEs, or the equivalent technical qualifications.

The perception of tougher GCSEs is not helping, with some lower-attaining pupils refusing to even sit the exams. Added to this, researchers from the Education Policy Institute (April 2019) showed that an additional one in 12 students (49,000) from English schools were unaccounted for.

With schools under increasing pressure to meet Progress 8, then even small numbers of such pupils can adversely affect school accountability measures, so how can online learning support you and help meet the needs of vulnerable pupil groups?

Flexible provision

In most cases, schools are already aware of the pupils who are likely to fall into one of these groups. Those with challenging behaviour, long term school refusers, or the disengaged are all known to the school. However, other students, including those in and out of care or with anxiety disorders or others suffering from complex medical and mental health conditions may be harder to plan for but are likely to only be in school for part of their key stage 4 study which naturally has a negative impact on GCSE exams and results.

A 98 per cent pass rate

Academy21 provides flexible, cost-effective, academically focused online alternative provision, supporting over 250 schools and PRU’s across 100 different local authority areas to deliver cost-effective solutions. Pupils referred to Academy21 remain on school roll and our courses can be attended from home, school or learning centres. In 2018, our fully qualified, experienced subject specialist teachers helped our learners achieve a 98 per cent pass rate at GCSE with a predominant focus on core subjects.

A solution that targets year 11 pupils helping them to realise GCSE outcomes

The Academy21 year 11 Rescue GCSE programme is ideal for many schools, as it offers effective support for learners at risk of missing out on core subject GCSE grades.

The Rescue GCSE courses run over 18 to 19 weeks, provide topic picked content supported by exam board specific preparation (AQA in Science and AQA/Edexcel in English and mathematics) and deliver the opportunity for disengaged learners to leave their secondary schooling with recognised core GCSE outcomes. When GCSE courses aren’t appropriate, Academy21 can provide level 1 and 2 functional skills in English and ICT, and level 1 functional skills in maths.

Highly cost-effective

Unlike the alternative option of one-to-one, or face-to-face teaching which can cost as much as £60 per hour in some parts of the country, Academy21’s Rescue GCSE courses cost an equivalent £9.60 per hour.

Whether it is for long-term provision or flexible short-term teaching support, Academy21 provides consistency, quality and structure to vulnerable pupils with diverse needs, delivering the opportunity for them to progress and achieve. Our range of different commissioning options from short trial through to annual pricing, help schools to budget more effectively and reduce costs. Together we will help find the right commissioning option with no minimum purchase, no block booking and no requirement to purchase credits in advance.

Quality provision

Our fully qualified, subject-specialist teachers deliver teaching and learning modelled on traditional mainstream classroom practice under the guidance of our senior leadership team and in response to the challenge of our Academic Advisory Board. The quality of teaching and learning is underpinned by our pedagogy which focuses on learned knowledge, learning skills and learning dispositions. Transferring excellent classroom teaching practice to an online learning environment underpins our approach to delivering academic success for the young, vulnerable learners we support.

Utilising leading virtual classroom technology, we deliver engaging lessons, leverage the best available content and support differentiation, small group working and provide additional tutorials every week when pupils may be struggling with specific topic work. Our integrated systems provide real-time attendance monitoring, lesson by lesson engagement marks and weekly summative reports for each learner. It also records formative assessment outcomes and provides a full detailed termly report including target and working at grades. All of which is made available to our clients on a 24/7 basis.

Online data is supported by contact from and access to our management and departmental leadership teams as well as to individual teachers and a dedicated client administrator to help manage change in partnership with school staff.

  • Gareth is head of school partnerships at Academy21 and has worked with local authorities and schools since 2004 to actively promote the tangible benefits of live online lessons and practical projects for vulnerable pupil groups. He is an advocate for virtual teaching within alternative provision and his efforts have delivered the opportunity for thousands of young people to achieve recognised outcomes and progress to employment and further education.

Academy 21

For more information on our Rescue GCSE courses or to explore whether we might be an appropriate solution for other vulnerable pupils in your care please visit


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