Schools should pay FE colleges for English and maths resits, thinktank says

Secondary schools should face fines if their pupils fail to achieve C grades in their English and maths GCSEs, a thinktank has recommended.

Funds raised from the “resit levy” should be handed to further education colleges, which deal with large numbers of young people retaking key qualifications, according to Policy Exchange.

In a new paper, the right-wing thinktank argues that FE colleges are already facing funding pressures, and now take on more students resitting maths or English GCSEs than schools and sixth-form colleges.

And the burden is growing in the wake of government reforms that require teenagers who fail to achieve Cs in English and maths to continue studying and retake the qualifications, it says.

The report claims that FE colleges are being left to deal with a far greater proportion of young people resitting these GCSEs than schools and sixth-form colleges.

It calculates that nearly five times more students retook English at an FE college in 2013 than at a school (100,239 students compared with 20,544), and 110,811 students resat maths at an FE college compared with 27,579 who resat it at school.

The thinktank goes on to argue that FE colleges require more money to cope with the demand.

The report’s author Natasha Porter 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.”

But school leaders have warned that introducing the levy would be an “own goal”.

Brian Lightman, general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders, said: “The idea of a resit levy on the secondary schools where these students first took their GCSEs would be an own goal.

“Schools are already facing real-terms cuts in their budgets and unprecedented difficulties in recruiting staff, particularly maths teachers. A resit levy would potentially worsen this situation, further reducing their capacity to put in place the very provision that would enable them to meet the challenge of enabling more pupils to achieve these grades in maths and English GCSEs.”

A Department For Education spokesperson said: “Post-16 funding is already allocated on a per-pupil basis, and we already provide an extra £480 per student, per subject, for all of those with GCSE English or maths below grade C.”

Meanwhile, the New Schools Network has also published analysis today showing that children in England’s poorest areas are nearly three times more likely to leave primary school without the basic reading, numeracy and literacy skills compared with their peers in more prosperous areas.

Nick Timothy, director of the network – a government-funded charity that supports groups that want to open free schools – argued that this “deep inequality” showed that “good new schools” were urgently needed to “bridge this divide”.

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