Fail GCSE Maths and English at your peril!

Two more years of study awaits you!!

The Education Secretary, Michael Gove has proposed that young people who leave school at the age of sixteen without at least a C grade in GCSE Maths and English will be compelled to carry on studying these two vital subjects for another two years. This policy is consistent with the introduction of the “English bac – English baccalaureate and it should be embraced. The English bac requires a student to achieve a grade C or better in English, Maths, two science subjects, either History or Geography and one modern or ancient language at GCSE level. There is no doubt some will argue that it is elitist. No right thinking parent should pay too much attention to those who complain about the English bac favouring independent schools. It is the same sort of people who condemn any form of competitive sport in schools. Not long ago, the former boss of Tesco, Sir Terry Leahy, expressed concern about how low standards are in schools and how too many young people are allowed to leave school without having basic educational skills to even cope on the shop floor. Quoting Sir Terry from the Daily Telegraph the head of Britain’s largest private employer has said

standards are “still woefully low in too many schools”, adding that companies “are often left to pick up the pieces”.

It would be foolish not to listen to someone such as Sir Terry Leahy, who as a young person worked at Tesco stacking shelves and washing floors, and later in life rose to the highest position as head of one of Britain’s biggest employers. It is very sad; however, it is not too harsh to brand many of these young people as functional illiterates, who can barely do simple sums. Sir Terry was later backed by another Tesco Director – Lucy Neville, when she said British school leavers can’t read or write and have attitude problems‘. Similar views have been expressed by the Confederation of British Industries (CBI) and a host of other employers, who have complained that they are having to pick up the pieces by sending young school leavers on special courses to master the basics they should have learned in school. What worries me is that many of these young people are actually intelligent, but we, the society, have not only failed them, but have failed ourselves in allowing them to go through the system without equipping them with the most basic skills they require in order to make a meaningful contribution to society. What a waste of opportunity! Whenever the government of the day introduces any sensible measure which many parents have been yearning for, we should embrace it with open arms. It actually makes the job of parents easier as they are now backed by a government policy which lays down the rule. Gone are those days when an almost useless ICT course counts as four GCSE grades – what an utter deception! There is no doubt in my mind that GNVQs, BTech and other vocational courses have their place and they are indeed a very useful part of the mix. However, what frustrates me is the lack of honesty and sincerity when the school and some teachers are advising the parent and the young person before they make important choices of which qualifications to study at the age of 15 and 16. Too many bright young people who are more than capable of thriving at GCSE are wrongly advised to take the vocational route. In many cases, the parent is not even aware and by the time they find out which qualification the child has been entered for, it is often too late to change the situation. The consequence of that action is that the young person in question has a limited choice in terms of A-level, university and future career choice. As parents, fighting tooth and nail to get our children to the best’ local school should just be the start of a long and not-so-straightforward journey. Keeping an eye on the child’s progress, supporting the school and asking the school serious questions whenever there is a need to do so and seeking advice from independent bodies are all vital in ensuring success. The journey starts right from the age of four and I’m afraid it does not end until late teenage years. Please see below for a list of information you may find useful as a parent:

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