Secondary schools will have to put every pupil who starts year seven without a “good pass” in key stage two English and maths tests through re-sits if the Conservatives form a government again in May.
The plan forces secondary schools to put all year seven pupils who did not receive a level 4 at SATs through re-sits in the spring or summer term. The policy excludes those with special educational needs.
But Labour has said the re-sits, which will be based on achievement in new “more rigorous” key stage two tests set to be introduced in 2016, were an attempt to “overshadow” the Tories’ “failures on school standards”.
Announcing the policy, Prime Minister David Cameron said: “There’s hardly anything more important to our long-term economic plan for Britain.
“There is no job that doesn’t require English and maths and this is about making sure every child gets the best start in life and that our country can compete in the world.”
Figures from the Department for Education show that around 100,000 young people each year fail to reach the ‘floor standard’ for English and maths at key stage two.
Only seven per cent of pupils who achieve a level three or below at age 11 go on to achieve five or more GCSE passes at 16.
Education secretary Nicky Morgan said: “We know that the biggest predictor of success at GCSE is whether young people have mastered the basics at age 11.
“That means if we fail to get it right for young people at the start of secondary school they’ll struggle for the rest of their time in education.
“Even one child falling behind, or being written off, is a child too many. That’s why the next Conservative government will require schools to enter any child who doesn’t have the literacy and numeracy skills they need to succeed in secondary school, for new year seven resit tests that will guarantee they’ve caught up.”
Shadow education secretary Tristram Hunt described the announcement as a “desperate attempt”, and claimed that under the Tories, 1.6 million pupils were being educated in schools with Ofsted ratings below the grade two “good” rating.
“This is desperate attempt by the Tories to try to overshadow their failures on school standards.
He added: “Labour has a better plan for education.
“We will ensure that every teacher is qualified or working towards qualified teacher status and introduce a new master teacher status to raise the standing of the profession.
“That is how we improve education for every child, in every classroom.”
The Conservatives said schools would fund the re-sits using the existing £500 catch-up premium payments given to secondary schools for every pupil leaving primary school without having met “expected standards”.