Thousands of 17-year-olds taking English and maths GCSEs
Tens of thousands of 17-year-olds took GCSEs this year in the wake of reforms requiring teenagers to continue studying maths and English if they fail to gain at least a C the subjects.
New national figures for England, Wales and Northern Ireland show significant changes in the ages of students taking the key qualifications.
There has been a 22.9% increase in the numbers of students aged 17 and older taking English, statistics published by the Joint Council for Qualifications (JCQ) show, while entries among this age group for GCSE English have risen by 30.2%. In total, 97,163 took GCSE English and 130,979 took GCSE maths this summer.
Under measures introduced under the last coalition government, which have now come into effect, teenagers in England only who do not score at least a C grade in English or maths at age 16 are required to continue studying these subjects until they reach this level.
This move has contribute to the rise in entries, it was suggested.
The data shows that of those aged 17 and above who took GCSE English this year, 35.1% achieved at least a C grade, while 35.8% achieved this standard in maths.
The Department for Education calculated that as a result of the rise in entries, there have been over 4,000 more passes in English by students aged 17 and over, and over 7,500 more maths passes.
Martin Doel, chief executive of the Association of Colleges (AoC), said: "Colleges supported an increased number of young people re-sitting GCSE English and maths this year with a third of students over 17-years-old achieving an A* to C grade. This is a great result for those thousands of students who've spent time re-sitting these exams.
"It is important for everyone to achieve a good standard of spoken and written English and the ability to do simple calculations but GCSEs aren't suitable for everyone. We would urge the Government to work with closely with employers and colleges to ensure maths and English qualifications reflect the workplace and everyday life."
Dr Mary Bousted, general secretary of the Association of Teachers and Lecturers (ATL), said: "Whilst applauding all those who have received the grades they hoped for, we should also consider the 37% who did not get at least a grade C in maths and the 35% who did not in English.
"We agree that all students need to be literate and numerate, however, making them re-sit their GCSEs until they get a C grade is completely demotivating. It also puts schools and colleges under huge pressure to find the extra spaces, teachers and funding to allow these students to be able to re-sit their exams."
A DfE spokeswoman said: "Numeracy and literacy are fundamental skills. If young people haven't mastered them by 16, they will be held back for the rest of their life. That is why we want all young people who do not achieve at least a GCSE C in English or maths to continue studying until they reach that standard.
"Post-16 schools and colleges are making good progress in ensuring all 16 to 19-year-olds are given the opportunity to achieve good GCSEs in English and maths by age 19. For the 2014/15 academic year, we know the vast majority of colleges enrolled nearly all their students without A*-C GCSE on approved English and maths courses."