Double maths breeds inequality

17th November 2006 at 00:00
Tony Gardiner is right to raise concerns about the double award maths GCSE ("Exam plan does not add up", TES, November 10). We are told that the intention is for both to be based on the same content; if so, the second must assess higher levels of thinking and foster greater understanding of maths. The situation would look very different for 11-16 schools compared with 11-18 schools.

For an 11-16 school, introducing the second GCSE will involve expenditure on teaching resources and exam fees; it will not lead to improved exam results, since students are unlikely to receive a higher grade than in the first maths GCSE, and it is deemed unnecessary for further study. Why should such schools enter students?

By contrast, for an 11-18 school, the second maths GCSE is likely to be seen as a worthwhile investment, leading to improved A-level results. Such schools would, therefore, be keen to enter students.

For two students of equal ability, one having taken both maths GCSEs, the other having taken only the first, the former will have a better grounding and is more likely to gain a higher grade. Do we want to build such inequality into our education system?

The double maths GCSE could offer a wonderful opportunity to improve maths education, but it needs careful planning.

Stella Dudzic

Mathematics in Education and Industry

Skipton

North Yorkshire

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