Could a new maths curriculum be the saviour of GCSE resits?

25th January 2019, 12:00am
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Could a new maths curriculum be the saviour of GCSE resits?

https://www.tes.com/magazine/archived/could-new-maths-curriculum-be-saviour-gcse-resits

Since its inception, the GCSE resit policy has been controversial.

It is now a condition of funding for colleges in England that students who achieved a grade 3 (or D) in maths or English GCSE resit the qualification.

The policy has certainly driven up the number of college students taking GCSEs - 170,000 young people sat their maths GCSE last summer, a 58 per cent rise on the year before. But just 23.7 per cent achieved a grade 4 or equivalent.

And just last week it was revealed that the grade 9-4 pass rate for students resitting GCSE English and maths exams in November had fallen compared with the previous year.

Such unfavourable statistics have been cited by many in suggesting that the policy be scrapped - Labour shadow education secretary Angela Rayner, for example, vowed to ditch the policy (if her party gets into power) when speaking at the annual conference of the Association of Colleges late last year.

But breaking news this week could change all that.

It has been revealed that the Nuffield Foundation is funding the development of a new curriculum for post-16 GCSE maths students.

Josh Hillman, director of education at the charitable trust, said that previous research undertaken by the body had revealed that students lacked motivation and confidence when required to retake their maths GCSE.

"This feasibility study responds to the Smith Review [of post-16 maths] recommendation that current maths qualifications could and should be reformed to increase the proportion of 18-year-olds with a good understanding of maths," he said.

"We are pleased to support this new study, which aims to develop much-needed curriculum options in post-16 maths."

The foundation has awarded around £60,000 to the Maths in Education and Industry (MEI) assessment organisation to envision what a suitable curriculum for students who have previously failed maths GCSE would look like.

Charlie Stripp, chief executive of MEI, said: "Resitting a GCSE mathematics qualification designed for 16-year-olds does not meet the mathematical needs of the large majority of students who do not succeed in maths at age 16.

"These students need a different post-16 GCSE maths curriculum that can motivate them to develop fluency and confidence in the fundamental maths skills they need for everyday life and employment."

MEI will consult with stakeholders from this month to develop a new curriculum with a greater emphasis on applying maths in realistic contexts. MEI will then carry out a small-scale study to see how suitable the proposals are. The body is due to report at the end of this year.

We'll then have to wait and see if the Department for Education is more open to the idea than it has been in the past.

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