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Teenagers must master core subjects
Teenagers who fail to score decent grades in their English and maths GCSEs will have to continue studying these subjects, ministers have announced.
Under new reforms, 16-year-olds who do not get a C grade or better will be told that they must learn the two subjects until they gain the key qualifications.
The Government said that the move will help ensure that young people have a good grasp of English and maths.
The proposal was first put forward by Alison Wolf, the Sir Roy Griffiths Professor of Public Sector Management at King's College London, in her 2011 review of vocational education.
At the time, she said it was "scandalous" that half of 16-year-olds were leaving school without good GCSEs in English and maths, and warned that it was a real failure of the education system that many of these youngsters would still not have these qualifications at age 18.
Prof Wolf's report called for any teenager who did not get C grades in GCSE English and maths to continue with them post-16 as the two subjects are the "most important in the world". This recommendation was the "single most important", Prof Wolf said on Monday, adding that she was "delighted" to see it being implemented.
Figures show among young people aged 19 last year, 285,000 had left school at age 16 without a C or higher in both English and maths, and by the time they were 19, 255,000 had still not reached this level, the Department for Education (DfE) said. Around a fifth (21%) of those who had not gained a good grade at age 16 in English continued studying it, along with 23% of those who had not got a C or better in maths.
The reform will be introduced from the start of this term - which begins this week for many schools - and comes as the education participation age is raised to 17. In 2015 it will be raised to 18. The DfE said that ideally, teenagers without C grades or higher in English and maths will continue studying for GCSEs in these subjects, although they can also take other qualifications such as functional skills and maths courses accredited by the exams regulator Ofqual as a "stepping stone" to GCSEs.
The English and maths results of 16-19-year-olds who did not gain these key GCSEs will also be reported in annual school league tables, the department said. Education Secretary Michael Gove said: "Good qualifications in English and maths are what employers demand before all others. They are, quite simply, the most important vocational skills a young person can have. Young people must be able to demonstrate their understanding of these subjects."
Prof Wolf said that the move will have a "hugely positive impact on the ability of hundreds of thousands of young people to get good jobs."