Another key driver in the United Kingdom is the common inspection framework (2015). Ofsted's Chief Inspector, Sir Michael Wilshaw, in his final annual report for FE and Skills (Dec 2016), highlights issues for English and maths and study programmes.

It remains unclear whether the GCSE qualification is the best way of ensuring that students have the English and mathematical skills needed for their intended career. Inspection evidence shows that, for some students, having to retake their GCSE can be demotivating and that attendance at these lessons is lower. For many students, an alternative level 2 qualification may be a more appropriate means of improving their English and mathematics and ensuring that they are ready for work.

Highlights from Sir Michael Wilsahws's past annual report for FE and Skills can be accessed here. Also of interest to senior leaders and governors will be departmental advice for the planing and delivering of 16-19 study programmes, updated January 2016.

You can watch a short video outlining OfSTED's key findings in relation to GCSE maths and English here.

In October 2015, OfSTED published four case studies of effective practice in GCSE maths and English called:

Increasing provision in English and mathematics through strategic planning

These case studies describe how four FE colleges tackled the growth in their numbers of maths and English GCSE learners through thorough strategic planning. Each college adopted very different, but successful, approaches to building their staff capacity. Each created a culture where all staff are motivated to support their students and all students are keen to develop their skills in English and mathematics. The case studies highlight some key success factors for successful GCSE maths and English programmes:

Key 'success factors' in maths and English GCSE strategic planning

  • 'Grow your own' staff teams, drawing on volunteers from Functional Skills and vocational areas
  • Find ways to integrate GCSE maths and English teaching within vocational departments, through timetabling and developing vocational practitioners' abilities to support learners.
  • Ensure English and maths specialists have access to good quality training and can support one another, for example, by being in the same base room for planning.
  • Ensure that vocational specialists promote the value of GCSE English and maths at every opportunity. This needs to form part of a 'whole college approach' to maths and English development.
  • Brand English and maths (e.g. GEM-Good at English and maths - at West Herts College) to help develop a whole college approach
  • Access training opportunities for staff, including those available from the Education and Training Foundation.
  • Plan ahead: Weston College have been working towards a three-year strategy for maths and English and have appointed college leads for each area, who report to the Senior Vice Principal.

You can also see some quotes from recent inspection reports where organisations have made good progress with GCSE maths and English.

Accountability measures

To support these changes, schools and other providers are now accountable for the quality of the study programmes that they offer their students through reformed 16 to 19 performance tables. These changes apply to courses which began in September 2014.

As we announced in the government response to the consultation on 16-19 accountability in 2014, from 2016, we will be introducing five new accountability headline measures for schools, colleges and other institutions providing education for 16-19 year olds. These are designed to place a greater emphasis on progress and progression alongside attainment, ensuring students make progress from their starting points and that every young person leaves education capable of getting a place at university, an apprenticeship or a good job.

The measures are:

  • Progress – a value added progress measure to show how well students have progressed when compared with students with the same prior attainment for students taking Level 3 academic and Applied General qualifications. A completion and attainment measure which compares the attainment of students with the national average attainment for each qualification and treats non-completion as a fail for students taking Tech Levels (and Technical Certificates from 2017);
  • Attainment – continuing the average point score per entry measure and removing the average point score per student measure;
  • Retention – a measure showing the proportion of students being retained in their core aim and aligned as far as possible with the retention element of the funding formula;
  • English and maths – an average change in grade measure for students who did not get a good pass (currently a grade C) in these subjects at GCSE;
  • Destinations – the measure shows the percentage of students going to or remaining in a sustained education or employment destination in the academic year after taking A levels or other Level 3 qualifications.

A technical guide has been published which gives more details of how the new measures are calculated. It is updated periodically

16-19 Accountability Headline Measures from 2016 A briefing note for 16-19 providers and stakeholders July 2016 (July 2016)