Why we need to get rid of the stigma surrounding post16 GCSE

This year’s GCSE results proved very insightful. While the overall entry to do GCSE examination increased, the number of entries from 15 year olds decreased. Which indicates that there are increasingly more applicants choosing to sit, or re-sit their GCSEs at a college, Sixth forms or other higher education institutions.

Following Matthew Hancock’s ministerial speech on improving post-16 literacy back in 2014, an in-year DfE survey showed that 3% of 16-19 year-olds in full time education without A*-C in GCSE Maths and English did not continue to re-take GCSEs in either of these subjects.

Achieving better grades in Maths than English

In 2012 slightly more students acheived A* in Maths than English.

Eng&mathsGCSEgrades from

While the minister wanted to reduce re-sits to 0% and originally implied funding cuts of 100% in the allocation for the following educational year, this was reduced to 50% funding cuts, for schools or institutions with over 5% of non-compliance. Nevertheless, for an institution with over 5% non-compliant students, this would mean a potential loss of hundreds of thousands from the government.  All is not lost, however, as there is a survey that these institutions can complete in order to explain their ‘get back on the funding horse’ plan for reducing their non-compliance rate, and also redeem themselves from a huge funding loss.

Are re-sits at GCSE level a good idea?

Even as far as 8 years ago, my old sixth form NewVic has a range of basic skills courses including GCSE English Language and GCSE Maths. These ran alongside a student’s BTEC curriculum during the first year, where they bettered their grades whilst not falling behind on achieving further education. While this is gets a huge thumbs-up from the Government, as a prospective student, I saw the college struggling to get rid of its reputation as ‘that school’ that will take anybody and everybody and establish itself as a school of excellence.

For reasons beyond the scope of this article, being selective has always been seen as a desired quality regarding sixth forms and higher educations. For a parent, knowing their kids are going somewhere “good” (and by that term, read ‘exclusive’) is like knowing your kid is in with the high flyers. Or so they hope. However, comparing an exclusive school to well-performing students is like saying an exclusive restaurant serves great food. If you are a vegetarian, a meat-serving ‘exclusive’ restaurant will do you no good, regardless of the reputation of the restaurant. Similarly, the proportion of GCSE resit students does not maketh a sixthform’s reputation.

Case in hand, take an average 15-year-old.  At 15, I felt like I was invincible. At 15, I revised for a week and blagged through the exams. I bet I was not the only one. Trouble is anyone can feel invincible. To actually be able to blag through exams and not back out from fear, that is an entirely different case.

Teenagers have different Priorities

You want to be the institution that recognises talent when you see it (GCSEs notwithstanding) and nurture this talent whilst improving their basic skills to help them succeed in life. Heck, my classmate at the University of Oxford had failed almost all her GCSEs (except Latin, Spanish and English-which she aced). It wasn’t that she was not capable of getting straight A (or A*) at GCSEs, it is all about their priorities, which changes with time and life experiences.

How can we, as higher education focused institutions, remove the stigma around intelligence being measured solely through the exam grades (and not miss funding)?

By allowing students to take (or re-take) their GCSEs, as the other institutions are now doing, of course. At OFEC, we can suggest tailored options that will suit your institution’s visions and strategies, whilst being user focused at all times- be it a high achieving 15-year-old, their parents, or an ambitious 23-year-old. By being able to access the relevant information through the tailored online MyOwnProspectus, everyone gets the information they need, as specified (or according to their vague interests), thus show-casing your institution in the best and brightest lights. See the OFEC You Tube vidoe on My Own Prospectus for an onverview.

At the end of the day, the reforms have boosted the post-16 GCSE resits from 53% to 97% in the space of an academic year, and that can only be good news for students and schools alike. The students go out into the world with the ‘necessary skills’ and the institution allows for the personal development of these young people who can re-sit their GCSE Maths and English whilst doing their A-levels or BTEC, and attain better grades over all.

If you want an alternate school of opinion to the GCSE re-take conditions, read this article by a former member of Advisory Committee on Mathematics Education.

If you want to find out more about how OFEC is involved with Education,

call us on 01865 556070 we would be pleased to hear from you

GCSE Results