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Flexible maths for the real world

A NEW vocational maths qualification is being launched, which uses real-life scenarios to help motivate pupils.

The Btec in mathematical applications will be offered to 14- to 19-year-olds in 60 schools from this September, with a national roll-out planned after three years.

The course will initially teach maths skills in engineering, sport and travel. It has been designed to work alongside maths GCSE and will be offered at levels 1 and 2, the equivalent of a GCSE grade A* to G.

Designed by the Specialist Schools and Academies Trust and the exam board Edexcel, it is hoped the qualification will make maths more relevant to pupils.

Graham Corbyn, from the trust, said: "This qualification tackles the issues of appropriateness, excitement, motivation and challenge for students of all abilities.

"Students will be able to learn core maths skills in a context they understand and are engaged with. They will also be assessed when they are ready, rather than when they reach a certain age, giving greater flexibility."

Pupils will be able to take the Btec before starting GCSEs or at the same time. It is also designed to offer a further maths award for pupils who already have an A* to C grade at GCSE and want to go on to A-level.

In the 2006 school league tables, which made inclusion of English and maths results compulsory for the first time, there was an average drop of around 10 per cent in the number of pupils achieving five good GCSEs, with maths being the main cause.

David Crossley, also from the trust, said current maths qualifications are too narrowly focused. "By having a qualification such as the GCSE, which is designed for only half our students to get a grade C or above, we are denying other students the chance to achieve their full potential," he said.

Mick Waters, the director of curriculum at the Qualifications and Curriculum Authority, said the Btec's supporting role had potential to expand: "In a few years, we could see similar programmes developed across the curriculum."

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