English and maths 'to be taught up to 18'

Books The raising of the leaving age will see pupils studying the basics for longer

Related Stories

Pupils in England who fail to achieve at least a C grade at GCSE in English and maths will have to carry on taking the subjects to the age of 18, the government has announced.

This follows concerns too many teenagers leave education without adequate skills in literacy and numeracy needed by employers.

It will see some pupils re-taking GCSEs and others taking less demanding tests, aimed at improving basic skills.

This will apply from September 2013.

The changes are set out in a written ministerial statement from Education Secretary Michael Gove.

Leaving age

Alongside high levels of youth unemployment have been complaints from employers that too many youngsters lack basic skills needed to make them employable.

Start Quote

If the government is serious about raising the age at which young people leave education, they should implement measures... such as requiring employers to check a young person is enrolled on a course ”

End Quote Stephen Twigg Shadow Education Secretary

The statement quotes a CBI survey saying two in five employers were not satisfied with literacy levels among school leavers.

It also follows the report from Professor Alison Wolf which warned some pupils were being diverted into cul-de-sac vocational qualifications - when they lacked the basic skills they most needed.

More than 40,000 youngsters a year reach 19 without having had any further lessons in English, after failing the subject at 16, says the Department for Education.

For maths, the figure is more than 60,000 each year.

The changes, linked to raising the leaving age for education and training, will mean youngsters in the education system beyond 16 will be expected to reach an adequate level in maths and English.

Those who have already achieved a grade C or above at these subjects will be unaffected.

And in a detail which may indicate the proposed return of the O-level, supporting notes mention GCSE grades but the ministerial statement talks only about a "good pass".

For those with near-miss D grades, there is an expectation pupils will re-take to get to a C grade or higher.

For those who have weaker skills, there will be other tests or lessons which might not lead to a qualification.

The plans are underpinned by a funding change.

"Rather than funding per qualification, we will fund institutions 'per student'," says the ministerial statement.

As an interim measure, and recognising the concerns of more academic schools, the statement promises a three-year guarantee of no cuts in per-student funding for individual institutions.

But Labour's education spokesman, Stephen Twigg, accused the government of watering down the plans to raise the participation age in education and training.

In another written ministerial statement, Mr Gove said employers will not be expected to check on whether their teenage staff are fulfilling training requirements.

This will be reviewed - but will not be part of the first wave of implementation in 2013, when the leaving age is raised to 17.

The statement says it follows concerns employers might be deterred from employing teenagers if it meant extra duties and the risk of sanctions.

The Department for Education said enforcement remained the responsibility of local authorities.

Mr Twigg said the change represented "another blow for young people".

"If the government is serious about raising the age at which young people leave education, they should implement the measures included in the legislation Labour introduced such as requiring employers to check a young person is enrolled on a course before employing them and arrange work to fit round education or training."

Under the proposals, the process of raising the compulsory age for education and training to 18 will be completed in 2015.

It will address the high drop-out rate at the age of 16 - a measure in which England's school system has lagged behind many other industrial countries.


More on This Story

Related Stories


This entry is now closed for comments

Jump to comments pagination
  • rate this

    Comment number 31.


    All critisism and no sugestion of how to move forward. Whats your suggestion for the future for our youngsters Chris, or does Labour Central Office not want you to have any positive ideas? Late shift for you is it?

  • rate this

    Comment number 30.

    I would love to know how they are going to deal with those who skive off? School is not for everyone and it takes time to value it. When I was at school I just wanted to fight with authority! All this will do is escalate problems for troubled kids. It is not until you drop out the system and down on your luck you realise why you were being pushed. i was lucky and got a second chance.

  • rate this

    Comment number 29.

    if labor had it's way poor thick ones would live on welfare there whole life.

  • rate this

    Comment number 28.

    19. bluebird1927: Yes, it seems very odd to expect ALL 11 to 16 year olds to engage with the great works of english literature. It'd be nice, but the priority should be good 'control' of the english language rather than an ability to critique Shakespeare. The idea that kids who have trouble reading will somehow be drawn in by great literature seems a triumph of hope over expectation.

  • rate this

    Comment number 27.

    This government seems to be totally out of touch with real life. You cannot enforce measures such as this on teenagers who for whatever reason have not done well in either subject. We aren't all born into idyllic homes with idyllic skills.

    To believe that they'll somehow be able to do it with the help of parents or teachers shows a level of societal immaturity on a par with a belief in Santa.

  • rate this

    Comment number 26.

    There should perhaps be some requirement for adults to speak, read and write in English too, if they live here, no?

  • rate this

    Comment number 25.

    Sorry but I disagree, I despised English until I was 15 as I just couldn't get to grips with how Shakespeare is written (Olde English).
    At 15 we started to read Mice and Men, Stone Cold etc and I turned a corner. By the time exams came I had developed confidence in my English skills. I never had any confidence when trying to decipher Shakespeare.
    My English teacher was strict but v.good.

  • rate this

    Comment number 24.

    Surely the emphasis should be these criteria are met at 16. Is this a way to accept educational failure, then lower resulting unemployment figures, by enforcing further education. Somehow I don't feel this is for the benefit of those involved, just more manipulation of the figures by the government = any government.

  • rate this

    Comment number 23.

    #19 I never had any problems relating to Shakespeare when I was a teenager. You underestimate what teenagers are capable of. The problem lies with the teaching.

  • rate this

    Comment number 22.

    Stupid idea. More truancy and bored children causing problems.
    Academic exams are not for everyone but are foisted in kids largely through snobbery.
    Should we be considering younger school leaving, maybe with apprenticeships or day release, to encourage work skills in a real environment.
    Because many employers can't be trusted not to exploit people, strict supervision would be necessary.

  • rate this

    Comment number 21.

    Whilst I think this is a good idea, I would far rather see standards improving at a younger age.

    I don't mean through 'targets' but through a happy and motivated teaching profession, and not the demoralised profession we see today.

  • rate this

    Comment number 20.

    I agree this should be done but in certain circumstances. For example i didn't get the best grade in maths but that was down to writing down how i solved the problem. I have always been the same, i can work it out in my head but to write it down i could never do. Either way i've never been out of a job so its all good.

  • rate this

    Comment number 19.

    If they really wanted to help the young in education then they should abandon the National Curriculum.
    My mates a teacher and I've had this discussion with him. In English for example, why on earth are we trying to teach 11 to 16 yo Shakespeare? Don't get me wrong, Shakespeare has its place at A level, but how is a teenager suppose to relate to it when its written in language 400+ years old? Crazy

  • rate this

    Comment number 18.

    People who get under a C in English/Maths will fail to do basic tasks in later life (not just jobs, also raising kids, buying a house, etc.) It is only right that the govt. tries to get as many kids up to a basic level in these subjects as possible.

    I agree with Gove- we should be helping young people to improve their skills.

    Whereas (New) Labour just want to penalise teens. V. disappointing.

  • rate this

    Comment number 17.

    'Bluebird1927' (comment 12): Surely you are not suggesting the government would use ploys to make it SEEM they have reduced youth unemployment?
    Shocking allegation .... next you may be saying they are throwing out hundreds of thousands of foreign students (who bring their own money INTO the UK) to massage immigration figures!
    Would they do these sneaky things? Well ... yes.

  • rate this

    Comment number 16.

    #7: "What is the point if NO jobs are being created?"

    Maybe education should include simple lessons in economics:

    1. Jobs are created by businesses, not by the gov't. Businesses will create jobs if they are not strangled by bureaucratic regulation.
    2. Businesses are created by people with ambition, who will create more businesses if success is not punished by so-called "progressive" taxation.

  • rate this

    Comment number 15.

    Surely this is the wrong end of the stick. If kids haven't achieved that benchmark by 16, they are unlikely to benefit much from another 2 years. Surely the 'problem' occurred much further back in their education, and the aim should be to remedy that. It'd be better to put more effort into 11 year olds that wait 5 years to put it into 16 year olds. Why wait til it's almost too late?

  • rate this

    Comment number 14.

    Maybe WE oldies need to keep up with how language is evolving?

  • rate this

    Comment number 13.

    The reason is simple...the children are allowed to use text speak in school and on the net IMs have robbed them of the ability to communicate in anything other than pidgin english, gang trash and estuary slang because its 'cool' so, it isnt and schools should have stamped on it years ago because its created a sub culture of adults and kids who cant speak or write properly.

  • rate this

    Comment number 12.

    Called me paranoid but doesn't the timing of this strike you as odd. Comes into effect 2013, just in time for when the next election time comes round. So come 2014, when the number of NEET youngsters drop magically, the Tories / Libs can claim to have fixed the youth unemployment problem, when the reality is their all back at school trying to pass the same exams they were doing 2 yrs ago.


Page 4 of 5


More Education & Family stories



Try our new site and tell us what you think. Learn more
Take me there

Copyright © 2015 BBC. The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites. Read more.

This page is best viewed in an up-to-date web browser with style sheets (CSS) enabled. While you will be able to view the content of this page in your current browser, you will not be able to get the full visual experience. Please consider upgrading your browser software or enabling style sheets (CSS) if you are able to do so.