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Maths, English: Pupils Must Master Core GCSEs
Teenagers who do not get a C grade or above in GCSE maths and English will be required to continue learning the subjects until they gain the key qualifications under Government reforms.
The Government says the move will help ensure that young people have a good grasp of the two subjects in an attempt to end the "national scandal" of two in five teenagers leaving school without basic core skills.
The reforms will be introduced from the start of this term - which begins this week for many schools - and comes as the education participation age is raised to 17. In 2015 it will be raised to 18.
The Department for Education said that ideally, teenagers without C grades or higher in English and maths will continue studying for GCSEs in these subjects, although they can also take other qualifications such as functional skills and maths courses accredited by the exams regulator Ofqual as a "stepping stone" to GCSEs.
Education Secretary Michael Gove said: "Good qualifications in English and maths are what employers demand before all others. They are, quite simply, the most important vocational skills a young person can have. Young people must be able to demonstrate their understanding of these subjects."
Mr Gove has previously said that within a decade, he wants to see the vast majority of teenagers studying maths up to the age of 18, and the Government is developing a new set of post-16 qualifications in the subject.
The proposal was first put forward by Alison Wolf, the Sir Roy Griffiths Professor of Public Sector Management at King's College London, in her 2011 review of vocational education.
At the time, she said it was "scandalous" that half of 16-year-olds were leaving school without good GCSEs in English and maths, and warned that it was a real failure of the education system that many of these youngsters would still not have these qualifications at age 18.
Prof Wolf said today that she was "delighted" by the move, adding: "It will have a hugely positive impact on the ability of hundreds of thousands of young people to get good jobs."
At the moment, around one in five young people in England continue studying maths past the age of 16, compared to other developed nations where the majority of students continue the subject.
Brian Lightman, general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders (ASCL), said: "School and college leaders fully recognise the need for all young people to acquire high levels of literacy and numeracy and is in favour of the raising of the participation age.
"However we have been expressing serious concerns to the Government for some time about the implementation of this very significant new policy about which there are many unanswered questions in the absence of a coherent and funded implementation plan.
"At a time when post 16 funding is being significantly reduced and feedback from ASCL members continues to show very different states of readiness in different parts of the country it is difficult to see how schools, colleges, employers and local authorities will be able to provide additional classes or recruit suitably qualified teachers."