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Pupils who fail GCSE English and maths ‘may be blocked’ from student loans under government plans

The Department for Education (DfE) said the plans aim to prevent pupils being “pushed into higher education before they are ready”

School pupils who fail their GCSE English and maths exams could be blocked from taking out student loans under government plans.

The proposals, which are due to be published later this week before being put to consultation, aim to tighten controls on higher education.

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Both student number limits and minimum entry requirements for some university applicants would be introduced under the plans.

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

The plans suggest that students who fail to get two Es at A level or equivalent, or at least a Grade 4 pass in English and Maths at GCSE, be barred from getting a student loan, a DfE spokesperson said.

Currently, around a third of pupils fail to get a Grade 4, which is the equivalent to a C or pass under the previous grading system, in English and Maths.

More pupils pursuing higher education

The planned overhaul comes as the number of school-leavers choosing to go on to higher education continues to rise, new figures show.

Data from Ucas university admissions service shows 320,000 sixth formers have applied for university places so far, compared with 306,000 in 2021.

The number of poorer pupils pursuing higher education has also seen a rise, with 28% of 18 year-olds from the most disadvantaged areas applying this autumn compared with just 18% in 2013.

However, while university applications are increasing, the DfE said that “not all students receive the same high quality of teaching”, and many become saddled with debt for courses with poor job prospects.

In a statement, a DfE spokesperson said: “Our universities are a great British success story.

“They are powerhouses of innovation and are playing a key part in revolutionising the skills system, helping making lifelong learning possible with more flexibility and technical training.

“But we need to ensure that we are creating opportunities that will not only open doors but will develop the talent our country needs to prosper now and in the future.

“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.”

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