Watching Skills Minister Matthew Hancock on breakfast tv talking about the raising of the participation age from today, my first thought was that he barely looks old enough to have finished sixth form himself, yet (maybe he’s on an intern programme), a function, of course, of my advancing years. My second thought was how little he had benefitted from the Speaking and Listening aspect of his GCSE English, no wonder it’s being downgraded. Anyway, the real purpose of his appearance on TV was to announce that any student who hadn’t achieved a grade C in Maths or English would have to keep studying it, and probably will have to retake it (even though I thought we were against people repeatedly taking exams: I love a bit of consistency!)
Lots of people seem to be in favour of this but one or two killjoys have wondered aloud if the funding is in place and whether there are sufficient teachers around. Having taught the sixth form ‘resit’ group I can attest to what a difficult bunch they are. They’ve spent two years failing to reach the grade, how much difference is another eight months going to make? A different kind of course is needed if we are genuine about wanting these young people to acquire the basic skills they need. Instead, it looks like we are subscribing to the ‘long service’ model: if you keep studying long enough, you’ll eventually get there. Erm, not in my experience.