Schools ‘should be fined for pupils failing’

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SECONDARY SCHOOLS should be fined if students fail to achieve at least a C at GCSE in English and maths, according to a leading right-wing think-tank.

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Funds raised from a “re-sit levy” could be handed to further education (FE) colleges, who are now dealing with large numbers of young people re-taking these exams, the Policy Exchange has said today in a new report

It says FE colleges - which already facing funding pressures - are taking on more students who received below a D in their maths or English GCSEs than schools and sixth-form colleges.

The burden of teaching students for resits is growing for colleges after government reforms required teenagers who fail to score a C at GCSE in English or maths to re-take them.

However head teachers said a resit levy would be an “own goal” as schools were also facing increasing pressures on their budgets.

The proposed fine would be imposed if a pupil failed to get a good pass in both subjects and was also deemed not to be making good progress - under a new system being brought into league tables next year measuring students progress across eight subjects. Schools would also only face a fine if a pupil had been there a certain length of time.

The paper’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.”

If such a system were introduced Yorkshire schools could be likely to face more fines than those elsewhere. The region has fewer pupils achieving five good GCSEs including English and maths than anywhere else in England and also among the worst scores for progress being made in the two subjects. The Policy Exchange report says the post 16 funding system does not recognise the additional burden FE Colleges have to take on from “the failure of schools to educate their students to a C grade or above.”

It says FE Colleges receive £4,000 for a 16-17 year old and £3,300 for an 18 year old to teach a full time qualification. This funding does not include remedial maths and English teaching for students resitting their GCSEs.

Association of College president John Widdowson said the report was right to recognise the extra challenge faced by FE colleges as a result of increasing GCSE resits. He said while a levy would bring in “welcome additional funding” it would be easier if the Government recognised the extra pressures facing colleges in the national funding given to FE.

Brian Lightman, general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders said funding for 16-19 education was inadequate. But he added: “The idea of a resit levy on the secondary schools where these students first took their GCSEs would be an own goal.

“Schools already face real-terms cuts in their budgets and unprecedented difficulties in recruiting staff, particularly maths teachers. A resit levy would potentially worsen this situation.”