The Association of School and College Leaders (ASCL) launched an independent Commission of Inquiry in October 2018 to look into how to improve the prospects of what we have called ‘the forgotten third.’

These are the students who do not achieve at least a grade 4 standard pass in GCSE English and maths at the end of 12 years of schooling. The fact that this represents roughly a third of 16-year-olds year in and year out is not an accident but the product of the system of comparable outcomes whereby the spread of GCSE grades is pegged to what cohorts of similar ability achieved in the past. Young people who fall below this bar pay a high price in terms of reduced prospects in progression to further and higher education and to careers.

The Commission has focused specifically on how we can do better for these young people in respect of English, though many of its observations could also be applied to maths.

The Commission was chaired by educationist Roy Blatchford and comprises 14 members: serving and former school leaders and representatives of professional associations. Feedback was gathered from seminars, school inset sessions, conferences and direct responses. The Commission met formally five times, taking oral and written evidence from a wide range of sources.

The Commission's final report was published in September 2019 and can be read in full here.


Lilian Bell, primary headteacher, Vice Chair, ASCL Ethics, Inclusion and Equalities Committee

David Birch, former secondary headteacher, English examiner

Roy Blatchford (Chair), former secondary headteacher and HMI, English teacher

Debbie Gillibrand, early years leader

Tiffnie Harris, secondary assistant headteacher and head of English

Kathleen Higgins, secondary headteacher, English teacher

Siobhan Horisk, primary headteacher

Misbah Mann, secondary headteacher, former primary headteacher

Julie McCulloch, ASCL Director of Policy

Julia Maunder, secondary headteacher and ASCL Council member, English teacher

Melanie Saunders, former secondary headteacher, international adviser, English teacher

Catherine Sezen, Association of Colleges Senior Policy Manager, English teacher

Iain Veitch, secondary headteacher, English teacher

Rachael Warwick, executive headteacher, English teacher, ASCL Vice President 2018-19


EPI report: The Forgotten Third - A rapid review of the evidence    

Interim report of the Commission of Inquiry into The Forgotten Third 

Press release following the launch of the interim report at Annual Conference 2019


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