‘Resit levy’ on schools should ease ‘extreme funding pressures’ on colleges, think tank report claims

Further education colleges struggling to cope with an influx of maths and English GCSE resit students should get extra cash through a special levy on schools, a leading think tank has claimed.

A report released today by the Policy Exchange, a right-leaning think tank founded by former Education Secretary Michael Gove, called for the “resit levy”.

It would mean schools having to help cover the cost for “some or all of their students” who fail to get a C grade in the subjects and transfer to an FE College to take their resits, the report said.

Natasha Porter, author of the paper, said: “It is unfair for some schools to pass the buck to FE colleges who are already facing extreme funding pressures to fix a problem they have not caused themselves.

“To recognise the additional burden on FE colleges and shoulder more responsibility, schools should cough up and pay a resit levy.”

John Widdowson (pictured right), president of the Association of Colleges, said: “Policy Exchange has rightly recognised the challenge faced by John-widdowsoncolleges as they support an increasing number of young people needing to re-sit their GCSE English and maths after 11 years at school.

“These resits are being provided alongside the technical and professional courses that produce the skilled motivated employees that the country needs to drive productivity.

But he added: “While specific proposal to place a levy on schools, payable to FE colleges, for those students who failed to get a A* to C grade, would bring welcome additional funding into colleges, it would be easier if the government recognised the new challenge taken on by colleges in the national funding system.”

Nansi Ellis
Nansi Ellis

Nansi Ellis (pictured left), assistant general secretary at the Association of Teachers and Lecturers, said FE colleges had been “most affected” by students needing to re-sit English and maths, “with some colleges having to devote whole buildings to accommodate the huge number of students taking GCSE exams”.

However, she said: “While we agree that FE colleges should receive additional funding for helping students pass their re-sits, we do not think schools should have to pay for it.

“We also fundamentally disagree with making students keep re-sitting GCSEs in English and maths. Instead, young people who have failed to get Cs in English and maths should take functional skills qualifications.”

The report claimed that the post-16 funding system does not does not recognise the extra burden on FE colleges since resits became compulsory for learners that fail to achieve a grade C in the subjects at the start of 2014/15.

“An FE college will receive £4,000 for a 16-17 year old (and £3,300 for an 18 year old) to teach a full time (unweighted) qualification, and is now required to fund the remedial maths and English teaching and examination fees from within this sum,” it said.

A Policy Exchange spokesperson said that FE colleges were also carrying more of the burden, in terms of the number of resitting students.

For students who completed their GCSEs in 2011 and retook them in 2013, he said, FE colleges took around five times more students who retook English — 100,239 compared to 20,544 who stayed at school.

It was a similar story over the same period for maths resits, he added, when 110,811 students re-took maths at an FE college, compared to 27,579 at schools.

The report added that the levy would, under the proposals, apply “where the student has both failed to get a C and achieved a negative score below a certain level on the new Progress 8 benchmark”, so long as he or she “has been on the roll of the secondary school for a certain length of time”.

Special educational needs and disabled students would only be exempt if they have an evidenced assessment showing they are not able to study the subject, it added.

The report added that there should be “a cap on the levy on any one particular school to provide some surety in financial planning from the school’s perspective”.

The Department for Business, Innovation and Skills declined to comment on the levy plan.

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  1. At last the huge issue facing FE is in the spotlight. If, after 11 years at school, students have failed to learn maths and English well enough, it is ridiculous to expect cash strapped FE to achieve this in one or two years (although they do pretty well in the circumstances!) The trouble with this approach though, is that it is trying to cure the symptom rather than the illness. There is a problem with the learning of maths and English at school for too many children, and the root cause/s of this needs to be identified first, and appropriate remedial action taken. This is too big an issue to leave to politicians. We need to properly research and identify what is really wrong with learning at school. The future lives of our young people depend on this.

  2. It has always felt ridiculous that FE Colleges and training providers should pick up the pieces after schools have failed their pupils. This has been going on for years but, obviously, it is much worse now. Instead of levying schools,the pupils should go back to their school for half a day a week to study for their resits. This would put the responsibility back on the school which is where it belongs.