New maths GCSE curriculum for post-16 students unveiled

The alternative maths GCSE would 'focus on the maths needed for everyday life and work', says charity MEI

Julia Belgutay

A new GCSE maths is required to break the resit cycle in colleges

A new maths GCSE curriculum aimed at breaking the resit cycle for post-16 students has been unveiled by a maths education charity.

Mathematics in Education and Industry (MEI) says the proposed new qualification would focus on the maths needed for everyday life and work, should be available to post-16 students only and have the same status as the currently available GCSE in maths.

The qualification includes a paper that can be taken early as a stepping stone and would be available at foundation tier only. It would herald a return to the modular approach to GCSE which was scrapped under former education secretary Michael Gove.

However, the proposals have not been endorsed by the Department for Education, which has previously opposed moves to create a modular GCSE for adult learners suggested in Dame Sally Coates' 2016 review of prison education.

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Achieving full potential

The move towards a new qualification was triggered by the low GCSE maths resit pass rate. At present, students with a grade 3 are required to retake the qualification. This, MEI says, can be demotivating, and therefore many young people do not achieve their full potential and can be left with low confidence.

The proposal for the new maths GCSE is made in a report funded by the Nuffield Foundation, with MEI tasked with developing a new maths GCSE curriculum exclusively for post-16 students. This focuses on developing fluency and confidence with the mathematical knowledge and skills these young people need, and includes maths for financial understanding, understanding data, working with measures and shapes and basic use of spreadsheets. MEI’s project was inspired by Professor Sir Adrian Smith’s 2017 review of maths education for 16- to 18-year-olds in England, which recommended that “in view of the low GCSE resit success rates and new GCSE requirements, the Department for Education should review its 16-18 resit policy with the aim that a greater proportion of students without a grade C or equivalent attain appropriate mathematical understanding by age 18. Specifically, there should be fresh consideration of appropriate curricula and qualifications for these students and the extent to which current policy incentivises these to be offered.”

MEI is now calling on the government to act upon the report’s recommendations and amend the requirements for resit GCSEs to allow this new post-16 maths GCSE.

Professor Sir Adrian said: “There has long been concern that the policy of requiring substantial and increasing numbers of students post-16 to resit GCSE mathematics does not best meet the needs of the majority of these students. This MEI report provides a well-thought-out blueprint for a new curriculum that could provide a more appropriate alternative for many students. It merits serious consideration by everyone involved in post-16 mathematics education.”

Plans 'welcomed by colleges and employers'

Charlie Stripp, chief executive of MEI, said: “It has been clear for years that the current resit policy is not fit for purpose for young people who do not succeed in maths at age 16. These young people deserve better! They need a different maths GCSE curriculum – one that better reflects their status as young adults and which they can see is relevant to the maths they need for their future life and employment. We have demonstrated that it is feasible to develop a more suitable alternative qualification that has the same status as GCSE mathematics. This paves the way for the policy to be changed.”

David Hughes, chief executive of the Association of Colleges, said the vast majority of post-16 GCSE maths retake students were in colleges. “Our sector takes the challenge of increasing achievement in maths very seriously and colleges are doing a lot of hard work to support students on this.

“A dedicated post-16 maths GCSE for these students, with equivalent grades to the current GCSE, would be welcomed by colleges and employers. Most importantly, I am sure that students would find it more appropriate for their progression.

“The proposed curriculum would better engage and motivate students who achieved grade 3 or below at 16 by incorporating a stepping-stone assessment of basic maths skills worth 20 per cent that can be taken before the final exam and which has some value in its own right. I hope that the Department for Education will take this proposal seriously and consider making the necessary changes to GCSE rules to allow it to be developed.”

The Department for Education has been contacted for comment.

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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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