NIACE to lead new GCSE implementation consultation

2 July 2014

The new reforms for GCSEs – announced by the Minister for Skills and Enterprise, Matthew Hancock – have important implications for adult learners, education providers and employers.  NIACE has been commissioned by BIS and DfE to co-ordinate consultations with learning providers from across the sector about how the new GCSEs, which include a revised grading structure and are more challenging, will be implemented.

The Government wants all learners to be encouraged and supported to achieve GCSEs in English and maths. This is based on the Ofqual Perceptions Survey (2013) which indicated that GCSEs are the qualifications most recognised and valued by employers, educators and the public. Functional Skills up to and including Level 2 and QCF units below Level 2 remain important qualifications, and support for these will continue, but the vision is for these to be viewed as stepping stones towards the ultimate goal of GCSE.

David Hughes, Chief Executive of NIACE, said:

“We have campaigned for a long time on the need for resources and new approaches to improve literacy and numeracy in this country. The OECD reports from last year showed that there are too many young people entering the labour market with insufficient literacy and numeracy skills and how millions of adults would have better life and work chances if they improved their skills. Having the right qualifications, which are recognised by employers and ‘stretch’ learners, at all levels, is an important part of the system which will help address those literacy and numeracy challenges.  The Government is clearly nailing its colours to the mast on this in promoting GCSE as the gold standard. I expect there to be healthy and heated debate about whether that is the right course and about how GCSEs will articulate with other qualifications.

“As well as debate I am keen to promote discussion about the implementation challenges. The delivery of English and maths is an enormous undertaking and this reform will probably add to that challenge. As a sector we need to understand better how best to motivate learners at all ages to improve their English and maths. I am particularly keen to develop more coherent pathways for people at lower levels to progress towards Level 2/GCSE. We are working now on a new citizen’s curriculum which covers literacy, numeracy, digital, health and financial skills which helps connect with what people want to learn and what they need to learn. This work is developing what should become a critical part of the system and of the qualifications structure to help address the longstanding needs.

“We want to hear from the sector as to how the new policy for English and maths GCSEs can be successfully implemented and what will work best for young people, adults, apprentices, trainees and other learners of maths and English. We have been commissioned by BIS to gather written evidence and hold seminars to seek advice from a wide range of stakeholders on how to implement the new policy. 

“We want stakeholders to advise us on how to ensure that all parts of the sector are ready to deliver against this new ambition. We need to help the Government review the systems and funding to support this policy as well as issues such as CPD for teachers, trainers and lecturers which will need to be put into place. It is encouraging that both BIS and DfE have asked us to lead this engagement and shows that they are serious about helping to successfully implement the new policy and address the literacy and numeracy challenges.”

Full details on a range of seminars and a call for written submissions from the sector to help inform the implementation will be announced by NIACE shortly. Anyone wishing to register their interest in taking part in this implementation consultation should contact: