Written statement to Parliament

Maths and English provision in post-16 education

Minister of State for Skills and Enterprise Matthew Hancock's written ministerial statement on improving post-16 numeracy and literacy.

This was published under the 2010 to 2015 Conservative and Liberal Democrat coalition government

The Rt Hon Matt Hancock MP

I am today setting out the government’s plans for strengthening English and maths in post-16 education, increasing uptake of reformed GCSEs in these subjects.

40% of pupils do not get GCSE grades A* to C in English and maths by age 16. Worse still, 90% of those who don’t reach this basic standard by 16, don’t achieve it by age 19. From August 2014 students who have not achieved a good pass in English and/or maths GCSE by age 16 must continue to work towards achieving these qualifications or an approved interim qualification as a ‘stepping stone’ towards GCSE as a condition of student places being funded.

Reformed GCSEs in English and maths will be available for first teaching in schools from September 2015 with the first examinations being sat in summer 2017. These new GCSEs will both be more stretching at the top, and more practical than existing GCSEs. These new GCSEs will then be introduced into post-16 education in phases between 2015 and 2020.

With effect from August 2015, we will amend the funding condition, so full-time 16 to 19 students with prior attainment of grade D in English and/or maths will take GCSE, rather than any other qualification in these subjects.

We will further revise the funding conditions relating to the teaching of the new GCSEs in English and maths to 16 to 19 students enrolling for full-time courses from August 2017. The final requirements will be set nearer the time, informed by the outcomes of Ofqual’s consultation on grading standards for the reformed GCSEs.

For many, reaching GCSE standard requires progressive stepping stones, for example, through functional skills qualifications, and a curriculum that suits their needs. We will ensure that such stepping stones are available to support students en route to GCSE and that these are fit for purpose.

GCSE is also a valuable qualification for adults and the reformed GCSEs will assess many of the skills that employers tell the government they need.

Our ambition is that, by 2020, adults aged 19 and over and apprentices of all ages studying English and maths will be working towards achievement of the reformed GCSEs, taking stepping stone qualifications if necessary. Functional skills will continue to be part of apprenticeship completion requirements but we will work with apprenticeship providers to enable them to offer GCSEs to their apprentices.

We will launch a call for evidence, so that we can draw in advice from a wide range of stakeholders on how to reach this goal for young people, adults and in apprenticeships, and how far the new GCSEs meet the functional skill requirements of all adults and apprentices. In response to this call for evidence, we want stakeholders to advise us on how to ensure that all parts of the sector are ready to deliver against this new ambition.

We are also introducing high-quality new core maths qualifications - aimed at the 40% of young people who achieve a C or better at GCSE but do not take A level maths. They will give some 200,000 students a year the opportunity to study maths in post-16 education, starting in 179 schools and colleges this autumn, before being rolled out nationally in 2015.

The majority of students who do not achieve A* to C GCSE English or maths at 16 go on to further education. As part of our plans to support these changes, we are publishing the Further Education Workforce Strategy. This will set out the steps we are taking to improve the quantity and quality of teachers to support the delivery of maths and English; to increase business engagement in FE (further education); to improve the quality of leadership and governance; and to enhance the use and effectiveness of technology to support teaching and learning.

We are announcing details of a new golden hello scheme for maths teachers recruited after April 2014, as part of a £30m package to raise the quality of teaching in maths and English in FE. This includes bursaries to attract more graduate teachers and programmes to enhance the skills of existing maths and English teachers so they can teach GCSE. The Education and Training Foundation will play a lead role in implementing this strategy. This extra support for FE sits alongside incentives we have already announced to recruit high-quality maths teachers into schools, alongside significant investment in maths training and support for existing teachers.

From the beginning of academic year 2015 to 2016, providers who teach English and maths GCSE to adults aged 19 and over outside apprenticeships will receive a higher rate of funding through the adult skills budget. In line with the policy outlined above, the government will cease to fund level 2 Qualifications and Credit Framework (QCF) English and maths qualifications from the same point, so that adults studying at level 2 will either take functional skills or GCSE.

These changes build on wider reforms under this government to put academic and vocational education on an equal footing. We are reforming apprenticeships to put employers in the driving seat, and make apprenticeships more rigorous and responsive to the needs of business. Our new Technical Awards are as rigorous and demanding as the new reformed GCSEs and will give 14- to 16-year-olds real-life skills in practical subjects. Tech Levels for those aged 16 to 19 must be signed off by employers. Technical Awards and Tech Levels comprise a clear set of high-quality options for students wishing to follow a vocational route, and so help ensure all young people better get the chance to achieve their potential.

Published 2 July 2014