GCSE English Resits in Post-16 Education : What results can we expect? by Gary Jones @DrGaryJones

Colleges around the country are now faced with the prospect of learners with a grade D GCSE English having to re-take this qualification as part of their programme of study. However, given that these learners have already 'failed' this qualification before, there is some concern that these learners are being set-up for further failure (and colleges are extremely concerned about the impact these failures will have on the all important success rate calculations). In this short blog, using data from the Statistical First Release Level 1 and 2 attainment in English and maths by students aged 16-18: academic year 2012/13, published in September2014. I will attempt to work out what ‘success rates’ would be realistic to expect from learners re-taking GCSE English. So what does the data say, well for learners who left school in 2011 with a grade D in GCSE English and went to onto study at general further education college, sixth-form college or tertiary college who by the end of the 2013 academic year had achieved a grade C or better:

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Screen Shot 2015-01-29 at 10.40.43

However, we need to take into account the percentage of students who commenced post-16 education with a grade D in GCSE English and who were subsequently entered to re-take qualification.

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Screen Shot 2015-01-29 at 10.41.44

What we can do now is calculate the ‘success rate’ over a two-year period for students who may have re-sat GCSE English on at least one occasion.

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Screen Shot 2015-01-29 at 10.42.52

However, what this table does not reveal the range of performance between different institutions. The following table illustrates the range of performance between colleges as regards the % of ‘D’ learners on entry who subsequently achieved grade A*- C GCSE English.

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Screen Shot 2015-01-29 at 10.43.58

It should be noted that in the colleges where no ‘D’ learners achieved a grade A*-C in GCSE English between 5% and 46% of such learners achieved an alternative level 2 English qualification.

Nevertheless, if we look at this chart we can easily see the scale of the challenge for GFE colleges, with approximately 85 colleges having less than 4% of ‘D’ learners subsequently achieving a C or better.

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Screen Shot 2015-01-29 at 12.07.28

So what are the implications of this brief overview?

  • For the sector as a whole, but in GFE colleges in particular, there is a significant capacity building exercise to be undertaken, with the GCSE English provision having to increase by approximately 450% if all ‘D’ learners are subsequently to take GCSE English.
  • Many colleges will be finding the new requirements extremely challenging as they clearly have to build the capacity and capability to deliver GCSE English almost from scratch.
  • If Sixth Form Colleges are used as a guide, it might be realistic to expect 60% approximately of ‘D’ learners in GFE and Tertiary College to achieve a grade C or better.
  • However, drawing too many conclusions from SFCs for the GFE sector maybe problematic given the different GCSE grade profile of both sets of learners (all other things being equal you would expect SFC learners to have a better GCSE grade profile than GFE learners).
  • Individual examination pass rates for D learners in any one re-sit are very unlikely to exceed 30%, as a number of learners may have to multiple re-sit opportunities over a two year period.
  • Given the challenges above and the implications for success rates, there is a risk that the system will be ‘gamed’ to the detriment of learners.
  • Given the relatively small % of D learners in both GFEs and Tertiary colleges being entered for GCSE English any conclusions drawn from the above analysis can only be tentative.

Finally, no one should underestimate the scale of the challenge for colleges if they are going to meet the requirement that all learners with a grade D in GCSE are subsequently re-entered for GCSE English. As such, it would be interesting to know if anyone involved in the policy-making process engaged in an analysis to estimate the resource requirements for such a change in provision.

Note * the calculations are only approximate as have been calculated by using averaging the results of colleges