More than a thousand Northumberland teenagers face compulsory GCSE resits

More than 1,000 students facing resits in GCSE maths and English.
More than 1,000 students facing resits in GCSE maths and English.

More than a third of 16-year-olds in Northumberland failed to pass their English and maths GCSEs this year, according to the Department for Education.

Figures for the 2017-18 academic year show that 37 per cent of students did not reach the required passing grade in English and maths.

Those 1,116 students are now facing compulsory resits in June next year.

A spokesperson for Northumberland County Council said: “Some of these nationally produced statistics don’t truly reflect the picture in Northumberland – where students are making big improvements in attainment at GCSE level.

“Northumberland GCSE results in 2018 were some of the best for many years – placing the council as the top North East local authority for ‘Progress 8’ a measure of the progress children make between the end of primary school and the end of secondary school.

“The percentage of students in the county achieving a good pass – Grades 9 to 5 – increased.

“There was also an increase in overall ‘Attainment 8’, the students’ average achievement across eight subjects, putting Northumberland in 2nd place in the North East for this measure.

“The figures for those who didn’t reach the required pass grade in English and Maths is in line with results nationally, and in Northumberland those gaining 5+ in English and Maths increased this year.

“Education across the county is on a very firm footing. We intend to build on this and work with schools across Northumberland to make sure we offer first class education for all.”

A total of 3,057 students took their GCSEs this year. Most of the exams are now graded on a 1-9 scale under the new system.

A pass grade, previously a C, is now a 4, with the top score of 9 reflecting the need for a grade higher than the previous A*.

The Government has defined a grade 5 as a ‘strong pass’, which would fall between a B and a C in the old system.

Girls were more successful than boys, with 68 per cent of girls achieving a grade 4 or above in English and maths compared with 60 per cent of boys.

The gap was the same at grade 5 and above, with 47 per cent of girls getting a ‘strong pass’ compared with 39 per cent of boys.

The Association of School and College Leaders, an education union, said that publishing how many pupils achieved a ‘strong pass’ is “an extremely confusing message for young people, their parents and employers”.

General secretary Geoff Barton said: “The result is that many young people will have felt deflated and uncertain after taking this summer’s exams, despite having worked their hardest.”

He added: “It cannot be right that we have a system which leaves so many students feeling crushed, rather than proud.”

Pupil attainment at GCSE level and individual pupils’ progress since starting secondary schools also form part of the school ranking system.

GCSE students in Northumberland had overall attainment scores that were slightly better than the scores of other students in the North East, and behind the national average.

Progress scores show that a typical GCSE student from the area did about as well as other pupils in England who started secondary school with similar results at Key Stage 2.

The DfE wants more 16-year-olds to take English Baccalaureate (EBacc) subjects – English language, English literature, maths, history, geography, modern languages and the sciences.

The proportion of students taking at least five EBacc subjects, and their average scores, now contribute to school league tables.

The Government wants to see 90 per cent of students taking the five ‘pillars’ of the EBacc – English, maths, science, history or geography and a modern language – by 2025.

But in Northumberland less than a third of the pupils opted for the EBacc.

The National Education Union, which represents teachers, said that the Government’s 90 per cent target is “delusional” and should be abandoned, arguing that the EBacc restricts subject choice for young people.

Assistant general secretary Nansi Ellis said: “Since 2010 too many young people have been pushed onto inappropriate subject pathways and denied the opportunity to thrive in other valuable and challenging subjects.

“The EBacc policy is squeezing subjects such as art, music, technology and drama out of the curriculum, and must be stopped.”

Ms Ellis also said that the performance measures used by the DfE to create school league tables are “not an accurate or reliable indicator of school effectiveness”.

She said: “Schools and colleges are worth so much more than data alone can ever demonstrate.

“The DfE should stop using accountability measures in this flawed, damaging and inaccurate way.”

The DfE said that its reforms were ensuring rising standards, including more pupils taking the EBacc subjects that “best keep their options open”.

School Standards Minister Nick Gibb said: “This is a testament to the hard work of pupils and our teachers, who rose to the challenge of our reformed GCSEs and A-levels this summer.

“These new qualifications will ensure pupils have the knowledge and skills they need for future success, and that every child is able to realise their full potential.”