MEI congratulates students and teachers on A level and Core Maths achievements

Posted: 15/08/2019

Very well done to students who achieved AS and A levels in Mathematics and Further Mathematics, and Core Maths qualifications. Congratulations also to their teachers.

Charlie Stripp, MEI Chief Executive and Director of the NCETM, commented:

“Well done to the AS and A level Mathematics and Further Mathematics students (and their teachers!) on their achievements this year. This year’s students are the first full cohort to take the new mathematics A levels, and they were also the first to take the reformed GCSE Mathematics in 2017, so they’ve been the pioneers of the new mathematics qualifications. I’m convinced the reformed mathematics A levels will provide a better foundation for university study in STEM disciplines and hope that this year’s small reduction in entries will recover once the new qualifications become more established over the next few years.

It’s great to see increasing numbers of students gaining a Core Maths qualification - well done also to them and to their teachers. Our interviews with former Core Maths students this year confirm that the skills the students have learned will be useful to them in their future lives and study. Core Maths qualifications are proving their value and numbers should continue to grow strongly.

The AMSP is ready to help with resources and professional development for teachers of AS and A level Mathematics and Further Mathematics, and for teachers who are already teaching Core Maths or thinking about doing so next year.”

The sections below provide analysis and comment on the results and associated issues:

AS and A level Mathematics and Further Mathematics

This year’s AS/A level Mathematics and Further Mathematics results are particularly interesting compared with previous years because:

  • This is the first full cohort of students to take the new mathematics A levels, which have a greater emphases on mathematical problem-solving and reasoning, and for which AS grades no longer contribute to a student’s A level grade.
  • Students taking mathematics A levels this year were the first cohort to take the revised GCSE Mathematics qualifications in 2017.

Both of these factors are likely to have contributed to the fall in A level Mathematics entries (5.9% decrease since 2018) and Further Mathematics entries (10.1% decrease since 2018). Entries for both qualifications had been growing strongly since 2003 and A level Mathematics remains the most popular subject at A level with over 90,000 entries. We expect numbers to recover once the new qualifications are more established.

Schools’ and colleges’ standard offer for A level students used to be for students to study four AS subjects in Year 12, taking AS qualifications in each subject at the end of Year 12 , then going on to take three of these subjects at A level in Year 13. The de-coupling of AS and A levels and changes to post-16 funding have resulted in the standard offer now being three A level subjects studied over two years, with no AS qualifications. This move to offering just three A level subjects for students to study from the start of Year 12 means that those students who may be unsure whether they want to commit to a full two-year A level Mathematics or Further Mathematics course no longer have an option to try it out by studying for an AS qualification in Year 12, before deciding whether to continue to full A level in Year 13.

AS qualifications in both Mathematics and Further Mathematics are recognised by universities as valuable, supporting progression to many different degree subjects. The government provides a financial incentive for schools and colleges to offer them through the Advanced Maths Premium, which provides additional funding to schools and colleges if their student numbers taking Mathematics or Further Mathematics qualifications at AS and/or A level increase. This means it is in everyone’s interest for schools and colleges to offer AS Mathematics and AS Further Mathematics, either alongside three other subjects in Year 12, or as an AS alongside three A levels in Year 13, even if they do not enter students for AS qualifications in other subjects.

The revised GCSE Mathematics qualifications are intended to be more demanding than before. Although the new GCSE Mathematics should provide students with a stronger foundation for studying mathematics at A level, there has been concern amongst teachers that some students may have been put off studying mathematics at A level because they found GCSE Mathematics more difficult than their GCSEs in other subjects.

Analysis of AS and A level Mathematics and Further Mathematics entries for 2019

The Advanced Mathematics Support Programme, led by MEI, provides extensive professional development support and a wide range of enrichment opportunities for students to help schools and colleges offer AS and A level Mathematics and Further Mathematics.

Core Maths

Core Maths qualifications are post-16 level 3 qualifications taken alongside A levels, or other level 3 qualifications, for students intending to follow less mathematical pathways in employment/higher education. They aim to develop students’ mathematical thinking skills, equipping them to use mathematics effectively in their future life, work and studies. They focus on applying mathematics and statistics to solve problems in authentic scenarios. Quantitative skills are vital for all citizens, enabling them to participate fully in society and giving them valuable transferable skills which help support our national economy. Students who have gained at least grade 4 in GCSE Mathematics, and who are not intending to take AS or A level Mathematics, would benefit from studying Core Maths qualifications.

Core Maths qualifications are increasingly valued by universities. They carry the same UCAS point tariff as AS levels. Schools and colleges are incentivised to offer them through the Advanced Maths Premium.

Analysis of Core Maths entries for 2019

Advanced mathematics participation gender gap

Taking mathematics beyond GCSE level (AS/A level Mathematics and Further Mathematics and Core Maths) supports progression to higher education and opens doors to rewarding careers[1] [2] [3]. It is therefore a cause of concern that there is a persistent gender imbalance in participation in A level Mathematics and Further Mathematics (approximately 60% male : 40% female for A level Mathematics and 70% male : 30% female for A level Further Mathematics).

There is no such gap in attainment[4] with 59.6% of males and 58.2% females gaining a grade B or higher in A level Mathematics, with this rising to 73.9% and 73.0% respectively for Further Mathematics.

Addressing the participation imbalance will widen career options for young women and help to narrow the gender pay gap.

The Advanced Mathematics Support Programme, led by MEI, supports schools in promoting AS/A level Mathematics and Further Mathematics and Core Maths to girls in Years 10 and 11.

A* in A level Mathematics support

Several leading universities require prospective undergraduates to achieve an A* grade in A level Mathematics in order to gain a place on prestigious degree programmes in mathematics and other STEM subjects. However, students in state schools and colleges may lack the support they need to achieve the A* grade.

To help address this issue, MEI is working with Imperial College on a project designed to improve students’ understanding of the subject requirements for an A* grade and to develop their mathematical thinking skills. The aim is to improve students’ opportunities to access STEM degrees at leading universities, including Imperial College.

The project has involved developing a series of four MOOCs, (Massive Open Online Courses). These online courses are free and available to anyone who enrols. A selected group of students from schools in less advantaged areas also attend the mA*ths Online Programme, where they receive face-to-face support at Imperial College whilst working through the online courses.

Teachers from schools engaging with the mA*ths Online Programme are invited to take part in an online professional development course, which is designed and run by MEI.


  1. https://londoneconomics.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2015/03/London-Economics-Report-Returns-to-GCE-A-Levels-Final-12-02-2015.pdf
  2. http://eprints.nottingham.ac.uk/31453/1/WP1_Post_Print.pdf
  3. https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/smith-review-of-post-16-maths-report-and-government-response
  4. https://www.jcq.org.uk/

Notes to editors

  1. MEI is an independent charity committed to improving mathematics education and is also an independent UK curriculum development body.
  2. MEI is a major provider of professional development for mathematics teachers and manages the National Centre for Excellence in the Teaching of Mathematics (NCETM) in consortium with Tribal Education.
  3. Charlie Stripp has been Chief Executive of MEI since 2010; since March 2013 he has also been Director of the NCETM.
  4. The Advanced Mathematics Support Programme (AMSP) is a government-funded initiative, supported by the Department for Education and is managed by MEI with support from Tribal Education. It follows on from the very successful ‘Further Mathematics Programme’, providing support for students and teachers for AS and A level Mathematics and Further Mathematics, and in addition providing support for Core Maths.
  5. Core Maths qualifications are designed for students who have achieved a standard pass (grade 4 or above) in GCSE Mathematics, but who do not intend to take AS/A level Mathematics. They enable learners to strengthen and develop the mathematical knowledge and skills they have learnt at GCSE so that they can apply them to the problems that they will encounter in their other level 3 courses, further study, life and employment.

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