Students who fail maths and English GCSEs may be denied student loans, plans say

Critics say any measures to block loans for pupils who fail maths and English could prevent many less well-off students from going to university, Correspondent Sejal Karia reports

Pupils who fail their maths and English GCSEs or do not get two A-levels at grade E, could be prevented from taking out university student loans under new proposals being considered by the government.

It is understood that the long-awaited government response to the Augar review of higher education funding in England will be published on Thursday.

The plans are expected to suggest that pupils who do not achieve at least a Grade 4 GCSE pass in English and maths or two Es at A level would not qualify for a student loan.

In 2019/2020, government data showed that 29% of 19-year-olds did not have a Grade 4 pass in English and maths.

The Department for Education (DfE) said the measures are being considered to prevent pupils being “pushed into higher education before they are ready” and to ensure “poor-quality, low-cost courses aren’t incentivised to grow uncontrollably”.

But school leaders have warned the proposals would hinder access into the competitive arena of higher education.

"I don't think it is helpful at all," Belinda Chapple, headteacher at Caterham High School in Ilford, told ITV News.

"There are ways to put stepping stones in place for children to achieve and you are looking for positive stepping stones for them to achieve, not putting barriers in their way."

Universities could also see the introduction of both student number controls and minimum entry requirements for some applicants.

Ministers want to see more young people take on apprenticeships. Credit: PA

But with the number of applicants to UK universities rising in recent years, concerns have been expressed that apprenticeships and alternative routes to employment would be better value for money than some degrees.

Universities Minister Michelle Donelan said: "Is it right at the moment that the system pushes forward students who are not ready who have three E's at A level into university?

"Or is it better if we ensure that they are really prepared for university and in a position that they are ready for it."

The DfE has said that it is concerned that "not all students receive the same high quality of teaching" and that many students become burdened with debt with limited career prospects.

A DfE spokesperson said: "Higher education is an investment and we need to ensure that graduates are being rewarded for the money, time and effort they put into their studies with an educational experience and jobs that match their skills and help contribute to the economy."