ASCL report on the 'forgotten third'

Last week the Association of School and College Leaders (ASCL) published the results of its “forgotten third” commission.

Achieving a grade 4 at GCSE in Maths and English is necessary to access many further and higher education courses, and the commission was established to investigate how the prospects of those school pupils who do not achieve a GCSE grade 4 in English and Maths (roughly one third of pupils) could be improved.

There was a strong focus on the importance of language and vocabulary education across many of the key findings from the commission. Seeing a disconnect between “grammatical and linguistic” teaching at primary school and the English language curriculum at secondary school, the commission recommended replacing the current GCSE English Language qualification with a “passport in English” which would be taken at any point between ages of 15 to 19 years. The passport would bridge the gap between the primary and secondary curriculum; focusing on everyday English skills sought by employers, rather than literary analysis. It also suggested a similar “passport” could be created in Maths.

The commission also called on the government to stop using the language of a “standard pass” for GCSE grade 4, and a “strong pass” for GCSE grade 5, due to the demoralising impact this has on students. There were further proposals for a review of key stage 2 SATs (which, the commission argues, has “driven a narrowing of the curriculum”) and for an extension of 30 hours free early education to all three and four-year-olds, not just those with working parents.