The Education and Training Foundation (ETF) is to review teaching and accreditation of maths and English for learners unable to reach D grade GCSE.

It comes as learners who record a D in English and maths at GCSE will, from next year, have to retake in pursuit of an improved grade, while those who get an E or below can try alternative qualifications in the hope of getting a C grade equivalent.

The ETF will not be reviewing GCSEs, rather, their alternatives, including Functional Skills — already the subject of an Ofqual review. Skills Minister Nick Boles told delegates at the Association of Colleges (AoC) conference on Tuesday (November 18): “I have asked the ETF… to work with employers, colleges and awarding bodies to understand what kind of English and maths qualifications might give those who are not able to pass GCSEs a certificate of real value — something that is emphatically not a soft option, something practical and relevant but demanding.”

An ETF spokesperson said: “There are ways for people to improve their English and maths skills outside of GCSEs and learners and employees following these routes deserve the very best provision which leads to a qualification employers recognise and respect. That is why we welcome Mr Boles’s announcement there will be a review of the best way to achieve and accredit maths and English skills.” She added it would produce preliminary recommendations by the spring..

Martin Doel, chief executive of the Association of Colleges, said: “It is encouraging that there will be a review of the best way to achieve and accredit maths and English skills. A more appropriate qualification should be developed which is understood, recognised and valued by both young people and employers.”

Stewart Segal, chief executive of the Association of Employment and Learning Providers, said: “We should recognise the growing acceptance of Functional Skills with employers, while still aiming for continuous improvement and long-term certainty around the requirements.”

David Hughes, chief executive of the National Institute of Adult Continuing Education, said: “It’s vital the skills system works closely with employers to design English and maths qualifications they value and recognise. But we also need to involve learners in that process.”

He added: “It is great news that the Minister has recognised their value and that he wants to raise the profile of maths and English qualifications other than GCSEs. Our work has shown adults are most readily motivated back into learning when the curriculum is relevant to their lives and work. We know that some of the Functional Skills delivery does that well and that we can learn from some of the employers, including the Army, who have used Functional Skills to rapidly help improve people’s skills.”


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