Government set to delete 'five year rule' on GCSE re-sits

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The Government is set to back down over controversial rules which could force hundreds of apprentices to retake valid GCSEs.


Christa Peers had relevant grade Cs 17 years ago. To qualify for apprenticeship funding she would have to do resits, so is taking out a loan to fund her apprenticeship instead

It is understood that Business Secretary Vince Cable has agreed in principle to delete the controversial ‘five year rule’, which limits the GCSEs which can be used to complete an apprenticeship to those which were achieved within the five years before starting.  

Ross Midgley, of training provider PBD, launched a judicial review over the issue in October, saying the move was ‘unlawful’ and a hangover from outdated rules about apprentices needing GCSEs with enhanced functional content, which no longer apply.

He has now called the Government’s offer a ‘significant concession’ and agreed to suspend his case at the High Court for six months.

This gives the Government time to make the changes, which involve amending the Specification of Apprenticeship Standards for England (SASE), which can only be done via legislation.

SASE sets the minimum requirements for frameworks, which are then developed as an additional layer with specific sector skills in mind.

A spokesman for the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills said, ‘The Government is considering modifying the SASE so that the requirement that GCSEs in English and maths at Grade B or C must have been achieved in the five years prior to the start of a Level 2 or Level 3 apprenticeship is removed.

'The chief executive of the Skills Funding Agency will be asked to prepare draft modifications to SASE. Once these have been received and approved, secondary legislation will be required to give effect to the changes. The Government will work with apprenticeship issuing authorities and others to implement the change.’

Nursery World understands that the new changes are unlikely to come into force before next spring. But the deletion of the ‘five year rule’ could only be in play for a few months as a new standard, developed by an employer trailblazer group, is expected to come into force from next August.

Mr Midgley has pointed out, however, that the interim framework itself has to be amended also for the change to have effect, as this repeats the 'five year rule' as set out in SASE.

He said, 'Unless this is given retrospective effect, it will make no difference [unless the interim framework itself is amended].  Even then, hundreds of people will have been forced to study, take time off work and put themselves through unnecessary re-sits, just because the government didn't draft the rules right the first time.'

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