29 Jan 2020

A new mathematics GCSE curriculum for post-16 resit students


The final report has been published of a project conducted by Mathematics in Education and Industry (MEI)  to look into the feasibility of a new maths GCSE curriculum for post-16 resit students. MEI says the new course would be the same level as the foundation tier of the current maths GCSE, giving students the chance to achieve a grade 4 or 5, and would have a focus on the maths needed for every day life and work. 

The project aimed to address the recommendation of the Smith review 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”.

The project involved MEI working in consultation with key stakeholders to develop a new maths GCSE curriculum with a greater emphasis on applying maths in realistic contexts. A small-scale study was then conducted to assess the suitability of the curriculum as a basis for an alternative to the existing GCSE Mathematics.

The report outlines a curriculum for a new qualification that focuses on the maths needed for everyday life and work, which also has sufficient rigour to meet the requirements of a GCSE qualification. It recommends that such a post-16 maths GCSE qualification should be developed and that it should have the same status as GCSE Mathematics at the same grade. It should also include a paper that can be taken early as a stepping-stone. The proposed new post-16 maths GCSE would be available at Foundation tier only (grades 1-5). This is appropriate for the majority of resit students as over 90% of resit GCSE Mathematics entries are for the Foundation tier. Those resit students likely to benefit from taking the Higher tier (grades 4-9) are well served by resitting the standard GCSE Mathematics.

The development of this new curriculum is the start of a process to improve the learning experience for GCSE Mathematics resit students and outcomes for the wider population by improving knowledge of, and attitudes towards, maths. It would require the Government to act upon the report’s recommendations and amend the requirements for resit GCSEs to allow this new post-16 maths GCSE. The DfE could then work with Ofqual to develop detailed content and regulatory requirements for the proposed new post-16 maths GCSE, opening the way for awarding bodies to develop the qualification.

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