Skills minister on hunt for apprentice but excludes applicants with GCSE grade 4 (a pass)



Anne Milton has posted a job advert looking for an apprentice to work in her parliamentary office which excludes candidates with a GCSE grade 4, even though it is considered a pass.

The advert for a level three business and administration apprentice was published two days ago by the skills minister and states that applicants must have achieved “GCSE A-C (9-5) or equivalent in maths English and IT”.

Her request for a grade 5 or above comes despite a grade 4 also being equivalent to a C and therefore a pass under the government’s new GCSE grading system – which has frequently been slammed for its confusion by parents, employers and experts.

Anne Milton’s apprentice job advert

It appears that the skills minister’s office is just as baffled by the system, as it was only after FE Week got in touch with the Department for Education and training provider who will offer the apprenticeship to point out the issue that they realised it was wrong.

The training manager said the advert will now be amended and the DfE added: “Minister Milton’s parliamentary office are looking into how this error occurred.”

Tom Sherrington, an education consultant and former headteacher, said the situation will leave Ms Milton “red-faced” and “absolutely proves that even the government doesn’t understand its grading system”.

“They’ve confused the government’s idea of a ‘good’ pass which is a threshold for school accountability with the meaning of the qualification,” he told FE Week.

“A pass is a C and a 4 is absolutely equivalent.

“If they put C is a 5 then they simply don’t understand their system.

“It leaves the minister red-faced, particularly because she is responsible for a department which is responsible for communicating this system to the general public.”

The new grading system was introduced by the Department for Education for all GCSEs for the first time this year.

A grade 9 and 8 is equivalent to an A*, 7 is an A, 6 is a B, and 5 and 4 are considered a C (see image below).

The government has tried to push the idea that a 5 is a “strong” pass while a 4 is a “standard” pass.

However, they’ve come up against resistance to this. Ofqual, for example, wrote to schools about the changes in March last year but left details of the new “standard” and “strong” passes off its aide-memoire.

After being shown Ms Milton’s job advert, NUS vice president for FE Emily Chapman said: “We welcome the Department for Education amending their job specification, however the fact it needed to be raised as an issue in the first place is a further indication that the new system of grading adds confusion.

“It seems like a step in the right direction that the government wants to take on its own apprentices, but they must ensure that their application processes are adhering to their own grading boundaries and not rush through new systems that haven’t been fully thought through.”

The successful candidate in Ms Milton’s job hunt will study at Westminster Kingsway College.

Duties include assisting her parliamentary assistant and caseworker with constituency correspondence and research, data entry and data management, and diary management.

It will also include organising constituent visits and tours of parliament, general administrative tasks and handling telephone calls, and drafting letters and emails to constituents on a range of policy issues.

They will be paid £213 per week. The advert closes September 16.

Interested candidates can view the application here.

The government’s new GCSE grading system explained:



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10 Comments

  1. Oh dear another gaffe from our beloved minister. Confused over who is responsible for the quality of appprenticeships, wouldn’t send her precious children to do T levels as like FE it’s for other peoples children, continues to fight for FE but won’t back the pay claim and now insists on entry criteria over and above what’s required. Sticks with the civil servants who introduced the apprenticeship debacle and who report yes minister the apprenticeship reforms are working but is merrily overseeing rate changes after providers have recruited staff set budgets Fingers crossed this shower will implode over Brexit and we will get someone who gives a damn. Clueless

  2. what chance does all sen kids have then if all employers are looking level 4/5 .
    what is this government going to do to help them and there job prospects when they leave school .

  3. To ‘achieve’ a 4 pass one only needs to get 18.5%. Sorry, but that’s a poor fail in the good old bad old days. A pass was 45% to 60% Grade C. An A would have been over 80%. No A * either.

  4. Robert Hoy

    so.. if a teaching job requires a degree, that excludes people with only a levels. would you moan…..
    there is a difference in people getting 4sxand 5s… that’s why it was created

  5. Anne Milton was a nurse who worked her way up to become a MP then as it happened a minister. She more than most should understand and appreciate that it doesn’t matter from what point or with whatever exam grades you begin your career, it is entirely possible with time and opportunity, to develop knowledge and skills, do better at exams and move up career-wise.

  6. Phil McKrack

    £213 per week? I used to earn between £250-£300 per week on the bins doing the mini round which was simply going around to all the small roads which the big lorry can’t get into. It would be like 20 minutes between each road, during which I would either sleep, read or be on my phone, occasionally jumping out to put a bin on.

  7. Meg Crane

    This is all fake news anyway. For a literate job like that, Anne Milton will want (and get) someone with a 7 – 9 grade. Have we really got to the stage where she’s not allowed to say so in the first place?

  8. Many students l know of have been refused entry for A levels to schools and colleges in Leicester because they “only have a 4”. It’s a C for goodness sake and 12months ago they WOULD have been accepted. It’s not good enough.

  9. Wayne Hamilton

    Also you will not find anyone with a grade 9-5 in IT. The GCSE in ICT has been scrapped with the last students sitting this qualification this summer and it was never remodeling as a 9-1 course students will still get an A* -G grade. There has been a big push in teaching computer science over the last 5 years which is fantastic, unfortunately this has been at the expense of IT which although needing updating should should in my opinion still be a GCSE qualification available to those that do not wish to study computer science.