Hundreds of South Tyneside teenagers face compulsory resits after failing English and maths GCSEs

A pupil undertaking an exam. Picture by PA Archive/PA Images
A pupil undertaking an exam. Picture by PA Archive/PA Images

Almost 40% of 16-year-olds in South Tyneside failed to pass their English and maths GCSEs this year, according to the Department for Education (DfE).

Figures for the 2017-18 academic year show that 38% of students didn’t reach the required passing grade in English and maths.

Those 558 students are now facing compulsory resits in June next year.

A total of 1,462 students took their GCSEs this year. Most of the exams are now graded on a one to nine scale under the new system.

A pass grade, previously a C, is now a four, with the top score of nine 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 65% of girls achieving a grade 4 or above in English and maths compared with 59% of boys.

The gap was the same at grade 5 and above, with 42% of girls getting a ‘strong pass’ compared with 36% 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 South Tyneside had overall attainment scores that were slightly worse 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 worse than other pupils in England who started secondary school with similar results at Key Stage 2.

The Department for Education (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% of students taking the five ‘pillars’ of the EBacc – English, maths, science, history or geography and a modern language – by 2025.

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

The National Education Union, which represents teachers, said that the Government’s 90% 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 the EBacc policy is squeezing subjects such as art, music, technology and drama out of the curriculum, and must be stopped.”

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