Looking to the future

The pace of change in the education & training sector continues apace. Key policy initiatives impacted on maths and English include:

  • New GCSE qualifications
  • Reform of Functional Skills
  • A review into the feasibility of compulsory maths study for all students up to 18

New GCSE qualifications

In September 2015 new GCSE qualifications for maths and English came into effect for first examination in summer 2017. The new qualifications are both broader and more challenging for learners, and are based around a new 9-1 grading system. Under the new system there will be just two opportunities per year for learners to re-sit GCSEs (November and June). A Summary of changes to GCSEs has been produced by Ofqual, which includes links to the specifications of the different awarding bodies.

Following a consultation, Ofqual have decided that there will be a final opportunity to re-sit the legacy GCSEs in English and maths in summer 2017, after which only the new '9-1' qualifications will be available. The legacy resits, however, are only available to students who were aged 16 or over on 31 August 2016. Guidance on the timings of the withdrawal of legacy qualifications has been provided by Ofqual.

From September 2017 onwards, cohorts entering colleges and training providers from year 11 will have taken the new more demanding GCSEs at schools. It is currently unclear on how this will impact grade boundaries and the size of cohorts needing to resit GCSEs, though it is unlikely that the challenge for providers will reduce.

Functional Skills Reform

The 2015 report Making maths and English work for all recommended that Functional Skills are “not broken” but could be improved and the Standards on which they were based updated. In response to this ETF were asked to lead a Functional Skills Reform Programme, involving consultations with employers, providers and practitioners, with the aim of producing rigorous and challenging new qualifications. Updated National Adult Literacy and Numeracy Standards and Functional Skills subject content are being produced, together with exemplar curricula to support the teaching of the revised qualifications, which are due to be available in 2018. Updates on the progress of the reform programme can be found on the Pye Tait website. Questions and answers about the programme have been produced by BIS.

Smith Review - Compulsory maths education to age 18

The aim of this review is to consider the potential for improving the nature and scale of the study of mathematics from 16 to 18 and ensure that the future workforce has the appropriate mathematical and quantitative skills. Amongst the issues being considered is the feasibility of making the study of maths compulsory to all students up to the age of 18 - including those who have already achieved a GCSE grade A*-C. This could lead to a significant expansion of level 3 maths, including the new core maths qualifications. The Review is led by Professor Sir Adrian Smith and will report to the Treasury and the Department for Education by the end of 2016. The terms of reference of the review are available here.

Download a PDF version of these questions here.