Fears of rush into double maths

Teachers welcome plan for an extra GCSE, but warn ministers that schools will have difficulty implementing it. Warwick Mansell reports

Pupils are to get the chance to study for two GCSEs in maths within five years under plans being drawn up by the Qualifications and Curriculum Authority.

The TES understands that two separate exams in the subject will be available, as traditionally they have been for English.

The plans, mentioned in QCA advice sent last month to ministers, comes as the Government tries to shore up the subject. Maths associations have complained that maths GCSE involves more work than many other exams. And, whereas pupils have the chance to obtain two GCSEs in English and science, only a few pupils take maths and an extra GCSE in statistics, or in additional maths.

The QCA intends the uptake of the new double maths to be widespread. It plans to pilot the qualification from September, with the exams introduced by 2010.

Maths groups welcomed the extra weight the Government is giving to their subject. Next year new league tables must include pupils' achievements in English and maths.

But they have not been consulted on the QCA advice. And there is widespread concern that ministers are introducing several reforms in a hurry, without considering how they might impact on each other.

As The TES reported in December, new functional maths tests are to be introduced in 2009. These are to be incorporated into the new GCSEs.

And current maths GCSEs are to be changed from September this year. Pupils will be able to take the exam at two different levels, or tiers, rather than the current three.

A source said: "People are quite keen to think about the double award plan.

It's just that everything is going on in such a tearing hurry, with piloting having to start by September.

"Trying to persuade schools, who are already having to cope with the new two-tier GCSE from this September, to pilot the double award as well is going to be very difficult."

A QCA spokeswoman said the model being put forward was based on that now being offered for GCSE science. From September, instead of double science, most pupils will follow new courses. All would take a compulsory "core"

exam, worth one GCSE. Some would then opt either for a more theoretical exam, or for an applied course. Both options would also be worth one GCSE.

A QCA spokeswoman said: "Clearly the science model will be the one that we will be looking at very closely.

"It has been well-received in the science community so far and has a number of advantages over other delivery options."

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