Schools should be fined for each pupil failing to achieve a C grade in maths or English, with money going to struggling further education (FE) colleges who must offer resits, a think tank has proposed.
A report released today by Policy Exchange — the right-leaning think tank founded by Michael Gove — calls for a “resit levy” to be imposed on schools.
Under the plans, schools would be required to “cough up” for pupils who do not get a C in the two subjects and achieved below a certain threshold on the government’s new Progress 8 measure.
“It is unfair for some schools to pass the buck to FE colleges
The money would go directly to FE colleges that are helping pupils pass their resits.
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.”
Since September 2014 it has been compulsory for pupils who did not achieve an A* to C grade in English and maths to retake the subjects in post-16 education.
Last year, 127,600 pupils sitting GCSEs at school did not achieve a C in English. For maths, the number was 178,600.
In the most recent year for which figures are available (2011) FE colleges enrolled five times more resit students after key stage 4 than school sixth forms.
The report argues that colleges are struggling to cope as the post-16 funding system does not recognise the additional pressures of resits.
The levy would “compensate colleges for the large burden that is, in part, caused by the failure of some elements of the school system”, the report claims.
Pupils would need to have been on the school’s roll for a certain length of time to fall under the levy. Special educational needs and disabled students would only be exempt if an assessment showed they were not able to study the subject.
Fines would be capped for any one school, the financial report suggests, to provide financial surety.
It does not suggest how much schools should be charged, but said the reform could be piloted as part of the Spending Review.
But Christine Blower, general secretary of the National Union of Teachers, said the levy would penalise schools without improving the outlook for FE colleges.
She added: “The answer is not to rob Peter to pay Paul but to fund all schools and colleges properly, to recruit more teachers and help them support students to make the most of the talents of our young people.”
The levy could also pose additional pressures for headteachers on results day, as schools often have big variances in their pass rates.
For instance, analysis of this year’s GCSE results found the maths pass rate in 110-120 schools dropped more than 15 per cent.
From 2017, the ‘pass’ grade will also increase as GCSEs move to a numerical system (1-9) rather than the current lettered system (A-G).
Schools Week analysis estimated thatt 15 per cent more pupils will fail to achieve a ‘good pass’ at the end of key stage 4, and will need to resit their exams in post-16 education.