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MEI congratulates this year’s GCSE Mathematics students

Posted: 20/08/2020

Congratulations to all students on their hard work studying for GCSE Mathematics. It is unfortunate that they were not able to complete their courses and sit their examinations as intended.

Thank you to all the maths teachers who have supported students on their courses, including adapting their work to help students to learn remotely during the school and college closures.

Some very good news is that the National Reference Test (NRT) taken in February/March in a sample of over 330 schools has shown an improvement in Mathematics attainment at GCSE in 2020, compared to the baseline year in 2017.

 Estimate percentages of students at each grade
Grade 4 and aboveGrade 7 and above
2017202020172020
English Language69.967.016.817.5
Mathematics70.774.019.924.0

Ofqual has accepted this as sufficient evidence of national improvement in maths attainment at grade 4 and grade 7 and made an adjustment when calculating GCSE grades; this is the first time that the evidence from the NRT has been used to affect GCSE grading.

Students will receive the higher of the centre assessed grade and the calculated grade. Although they have not actually taken GCSE examinations this year, we have strong evidence from the NRT that this year’s cohort of GCSE students were gaining a good understanding of maths.

All those who have received a grade 4 or higher should be encouraged to continue to study maths beyond GCSE. Further developing mathematical and data analysis skills helps young people to prepare for the future, whatever their aspirations. Advanced maths qualifications are required for many degree courses and higher-level apprenticeships and can lead to reduced offers for a wide range of degree subjects. This advice from the Advanced Maths Support Programme (AMSP) explains the options available.

For students who did not receive at least a grade 4, it’s vital that they continue working towards that goal post-16. MEI recognises that the current GCSE Mathematics qualification may not be well-suited to many of these students. This is why we have developed a proposal for a new curriculum that has greater emphasis on applying maths in realistic contexts, which we hope will lead to a fresh consideration of options for an alternative post-16 maths GCSE.

This year is the fourth year of the new, more demanding GCSE Mathematics. The examinations require students to demonstrate mathematical reasoning and problem-solving skills and many students find these aspects particularly challenging. The teaching approaches supported through the NCETM’s secondary mastery opportunities and the AMSP’s GCSE Mathematics professional development help teachers to teach maths in ways that encourage students to develop the deep and connected understanding of key mathematical concepts needed for success in GCSE Mathematics. MEI strongly recommends the NCETM and AMSP GCSE Mathematics professional development opportunities, which are available free of charge to state schools.

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

“The Covid crisis means that this has been a very difficult year for students, with severe disruption to their education. This is especially true for those students who had expected to be taking their GCSE exams this summer. Everyone knows GCSE Mathematics important, but many may not realise it’s a lot more important than just passing the exam. GCSE Mathematics underpins the quantitative skills needed for further study across a wide range of subjects, and for success at work and in everyday life. The Covid crisis has certainly made clear how important it is that everyone is able to understand quantitative information and interpret data.

Subject choices post-16 are crucial to students’ future success, and continuing with maths is vital. The increases in the numbers of students taking A level Mathematics and Further Mathematics, and the large increase in Core Maths numbers, reported last week, are excellent news. These increases must be maintained and built upon.

Teachers in schools and colleges will be doing all they can to encourage students to choose maths qualifications post-16 and make a successful transition to their post-16 studies. To support this, the AMSP has developed transition programmes for students and is adapting its work to help schools and colleges overcome the disruption to maths education caused by the Covid crisis.

Core Maths is now a well-established as a successful course that is valued and enjoyed by students. As a result, its value is now recognised by universities, some of which (Bath, Sheffield, York) are including it in their offers for admission to a wide range of different degree subjects.

Core Maths is even more important in 2020. The disruption to education caused by the Covid lockdown this summer means many students will feel less confident about maths. For those not choosing A level Mathematics, taking Core Maths alongside their other subjects will help them tackle the quantitative aspects of all their courses.”

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