Schools “should meet cost to colleges of maths and English GCSE resits”

25 Aug 15

Schools where pupils fail to achieve a C grade or higher in GCSE maths and English should be fined, the Policy Exchange think-tank has suggested.

A paper, issued today, proposes a “resit levy” whereby schools would transfer funds to further education colleges where their former students are retaking exams.

Students who require a second attempt at GCSE maths and English tend to favour moving to an FE college rather than staying in school, according to Policy Exchange’s figures.

Of students who completed their GCSEs in 2011 in England, more than 100,000 retook English at an FE college, compared to 20,500 who stayed at school and 8,700 who went to a sixth form college.

For maths resits, almost 111,000 chose FE college, compared to 27,600 at schools, and 11,000 at sixth form colleges.

FE college students tended to need more intensive coaching with a greater proportion likely to have received a D grade or below. Two-third of students resitting maths in an FE college received a grade D or below, compared to less than half in schools and sixth forms.

Yet, Policy Exchange argues, there is nothing in the funding regime that recognises this extra burden on FE colleges. It suggests a levy could help redress the balance.

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.”

Under the plan, the levy would only apply in cases where the pupil was on the school roll for sufficient time and would be capped to allow certainty in financial planning.

But the Association of School and College Leaders branded the resit levy an “own goal”.

General secretary Brian Lightman said: “There will always be some students who do not achieve these grades by the age of 16 for a host of reasons, particularly as new, harder exams are being introduced.
“We agree that these students need continued help and support in English and maths post-16, and that FE colleges and other providers should receive the funding they need to deliver these courses.  However, 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.”

  • Vivienne Russell

    Vivienne Russell is managing editor of Public Finance magazine and

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