Can Gove solve the maths and English skills conundrum?
Education secretary wants pupils who fail maths and English GCSEs to keep studying core subjects
UNDER a new government policy, teenagers in England who fail to achieve at least a C grade in English and maths GCSEs will have to continue studying the subjects until they turn 18.
Education Secretary Michael Gove says it will help ensure that young people have a grasp of the core subjects that employers "demand above all others". The reform will be introduced in the coming school term, which for many begins this week.
Teenagers who missed C grades will be encouraged to re-take their GCSEs.
"Quite right, too," says The Independent. "As the routine complaints of employers make depressingly clear, many British teenagers still leave school with substandard skills. Basic literacy and numeracy are demanded in nearly every walk of life, but are sadly often lacking. Not only is the economy suffering, so are the individuals."
That said, it is "tricky" to see how a single extra year will resolve the difficulties of some students who are likely to have fallen behind at a much earlier age. "Mr Gove's plan is not a bad one," says the Independent. "But it alone will not solve the problem."
From this year, teenagers will also have to stay in school or full-time training until they are 17. This will be raised again to 18 in 2015.
Labour's shadow education secretary, Stephen Twigg, complains that the government is not moving fast enough. "In 2012 Labour set out ambitious plans for all children to study English and maths to 18. A whole wasted year later and the government have only got halfway there," he says. "This isn't good enough."
Christine Blower, general secretary of the National Union of Teachers, tells the BBC that it is "of course desirable" that young people pass English and maths GCSEs. But she says for some - particularly those with specialist education needs - achieving a C grade will "simply not be possible".
Other teaching experts, such as Brian Lightman, head of the Association of School and College Leaders, have called for clarification about funding. The "aim is right", he says, but there are "many questions the government needs to address urgently about how it will fund and implement its plan".
More classes and teachers will be needed if last year's figures are anything to go by: a survey found that there were more than a quarter of a million 19-year-olds without a C grade in English and maths.
The statistics are described by the Daily Telegraph as a "national scandal". Literacy and numeracy, it says, are the "two most important skills with which school-leavers can be equipped if they want to get a job".
It adds: "Ministers are right to want to push schools and pupils towards the highest standards; but no one should underestimate the challenges that lie ahead to achieve them." ·