Alternative maths GCSE resit curriculum to be tested

Nuffield Foundation funds research into feasibility of a new curriculum for mathematics resit students

Julia Belgutay

GCSE resit exams progress colleges fail FE

A new curriculum for post-16 GCSE maths students is to be developed, it has been announced. 

The Nuffield Foundation has awarded about £60,000 in funding to Mathematics in Education and Industry (MEI) to investigate the feasibility of a new mathematics GCSE curriculum for post-16 resit students.

MEI will consult stakeholders from this month to develop a new curriculum for these students, most of whom resit at FE colleges. This will have a greater emphasis on applying maths in realistic contexts than the existing qualification. MEI will then carry out a small-scale study to test the suitability of this new curriculum. The project will report towards the end of 2019.

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

Significant increase in entries

This controversial policy has led to a significant increase in the number of college students sitting GCSE exams. And of the over 170,000 young people resat their maths GCSE last summer, only 23.7 per cent achieved at least a grade 4 or equivalent.

Last week it was announced that the 9-4 pass rate for students resitting GCSE English and maths exams in November had fallen compared with last year.

This is not the first time an “adult GCSE” to better suit resit students has been suggested. In 2016, then apprenticeships and skills minister Rob Halfon said he was “open-minded” about proposals to create a modular “adult GCSE” in English and maths. This came after the idea was among recommendations made by Dame Sally Coates in her review of prison education published earlier that year.

However, despite the review’s recommendations being accepted in full by the government at the time, Dame Sally told TES that then schools minister Nick Gibb informed her in a subsequent meeting that he would not be approving new forms of the qualifications.

Josh Hillman, director of education at the Nuffield Foundation, said: “Performance in GCSE maths has both immediate and long-term impact on the education, training and employment trajectories of 16-year-olds. Previous Nuffield Foundation funded research has found that students’ past experiences mean they lack both motivation and confidence when required to retake their maths GCSE, and the resit success rate remains stubbornly low.

New 'much-needed' options?

"This feasibility study responds to the Smith Review recommendation that current maths qualifications could and should be reformed to increase the proportion of 18-year-olds with a good understanding of maths. We are pleased to support this new study which aims to develop much needed curriculum options in post-16 maths.”

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 is delighted that the Nuffield Foundation has agreed to support our work to try to develop such a curriculum.”


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Julia Belgutay

Julia Belgutay

Julia Belgutay is head of FE at Tes

Find me on Twitter @JBelgutay

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