Labour would scrap GCSE resits policy, Angela Rayner says

The controversial policy of forcing students to resit GCSEs in English and maths would be scrapped under a Labour government, the shadow education secretary has said.  

Angela Rayner has said that students would be able to study other Level 2 qualifications in English and in maths, such as functional skills, instead of GCSEs.

Speaking to the annual conference of the Association of Colleges, Ms Rayner said that the party would end the compulsory resits for post-16 students – which have been unpopular across the sector.

Currently all full-time students who fail to secure at least a grade 4 – or a C in the old-style GCSE – in maths or English must resit the qualification if they want to study at a school or college.  

The requirement of compulsory resits for students is currently in place as a condition of funding as part of an institution’s contract with the Education Skills Funding Agency (ESFA).

Students have had to retake either maths or English multiple times since the policy was brought in by the Coalition government – which has led to criticism over its impact on students’ wellbeing.  

The increasing number of students required to retake the qualifications has also not helped with the sector’s tight resources.

Speaking at the conference in Birmingham on Tuesday, Ms Rayner said several organisations from across the further education (FE) sector had raised concerns about the resit policy.

She said: “We won’t just make sure that FE has a voice. We will also listen.

“Recently, bodies from across the sector, including the Association of Colleges, have raised concerns about students in both the 16-18 and 19-25 age ranges who are being forced to re-sit English and Maths GCSEs over and over again due to ESFA funding requirements.

“So I can announce today that we have listened and we have heard.  A Labour government would end that requirement.”  

Julian Gravatt, deputy chief executive of the Association of Colleges (AoC), welcomed Labour’s position on English and maths GCSE retakes.

He said: “It’s vital that every young person leaves education with strong foundations in these subjects– they are the basis for success in work and in life.

“Colleges have long called for flexibility in how to support learners to achieve this. A one-size fits all approach has not worked and does not work.”

Geoff Barton, general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders (ASCL), also welcomed Labour’s plans to “end the remorseless cycle of GCSE English and maths retakes”.

He said: “It’s absolutely right that students should be able to retake these important qualifications if they choose to do so. But there is no point in compelling large numbers of students to keep resitting qualifications with diminishing results.

“It is demoralising for both them and their teachers and puts an intolerable strain on scarce resources.”


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