Schools where pupils fail to reach A to C standard in GCSE maths and English should be penalised by having some of their funding denied, says a training provider expert.

Graham Hoyle, chief executive of the Association of Employment and Learning Providers (AELP), says that schools should be subject to the same conditions as training companies that have 25 per cent of their money held back until an apprenticeship has been completed and signed off, withholding part of pupil funding would “up the level of success” in schools, he told FE Week.

Secondary schools are charged with giving people a certain level of education. Why aren’t they incentivised or penalised if they don’t?

“Payment by results is an incentive to give people a satisfactory end product. If we don’t get it right, it costs us.

“Secondary schools are charged with giving people a certain level of education. Why aren’t they incentivised or penalised if they don’t?

“Where it doesn’t, we think that the money should be reinvested but given to training providers who have to do the remedial work,” he said.

“We deal with a large numbers of  school-leavers who have insufficient levels of English, maths and employability skills.”

Grades A to C in maths and English should be expected of all pupils other than those with special needs – “schools need to get 90 per cent of the cohort to this standard,” he said.

The same funding formula should apply if schools failed to turn out pupils with “employability skills”, although this would be more difficult to implement.

Mr Hoyle has raised the idea with Department for Education officials who, he said, found the logic “difficult to argue against”. Some Liberal Democrat politicians — he refused to name them — have also shown “very real interest”.

Russell Hobby, general secretary of the National Association of Head Teachers, said it was a “ridiculous” idea. “Taking away some of the resources of a school struggling with standards will make it struggle even more.”

Brian Lightman, general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders (ASCL), said: “Treating schools like naughty children will reduce their capacity to get more children through to a higher level of competence.

“We should be investing resources to give then help and support – we need to get away from the idea that schools and teachers are the problem. Payment by results belongs to the Victorian era.”

According to the Association of Colleges (AoC), almost 150,000 16 to 18-year-olds study at pre-GCSE level in colleges where “the majority have to go back to basics, and need a lot of help and encouragement to gain qualifications in incremental stages”.

Cathy Walsh, principal of Barking and Dagenham College, told FE Week: “It’s good that Graham is being radical — it’s an interesting idea for the money to follow the learner and supporting young people to gain that level 2 benchmark.

“Colleges are already delivering this for young people. However, we aren’t running GCSE repeats, but other qualifications such as functional skills competence at level 2 that applies to English and maths.

“We need a more innovative curriculum and to assess the exam system. Having youngsters keep on redoing GCSEs reinforces a sense of failure — putting them through the same hoops doesn’t work.”

Social Market Foundation director Ian Mulheirn said Hoyle’s view “definitely had something”, but he questioned its practicality and fairness.

“I think in principle he’s right, but it would seem unfair that if schools were improving, and had taught a difficult group and moved them forward, they didn’t get properly rewarded.

“A system should be value added rather than absolute — if it isn’t, schools in more deprived areas will get their funding cut.”

He considered Hoyle’s 90 per cent target “absolutely right” but said standards could be driven up by “much more powerful regulation”.

“If they weren’t being met, being able to kick out the management and get in new people — rather than cutting funding — might have the same effect.”

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  1. Graham makes an excellent point which I have been making for some years. We are paying twice for the same piece of work, firstly to schools, and then as part of the apprenticeship programme or via FE Colleges. If my plumber fails to cure a leak, I don’t pay him. If it leaks after I’ve paid him, I expect him either to return and complete the repair, or repay me for the work poorly done.