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Supporting improvement in maths education outcomes in Stoke-on-Trent (2016 – 2022)

The level of attainment in maths among students across the UK is regionally inconsistent, with students in some regions and schools achieving much better examination results than in others, and students in disadvantaged areas generally achieving poorer results. Until 2016, this was certainly the case in the city of Stoke-on-Trent.

MEI’s work in Stoke-on-Trent aimed to support improvements in maths education at all levels by working closely with local schools and colleges to properly understand their maths education provision and development needs. This has enabled us to provide tailored expert support, advice and teacher professional development programmes at primary, secondary and post-16 level, enhancing and complementing national support available from the National Centre for Excellence in the Teaching of Mathematics (NCETM) and the Advanced Mathematics Support Programme (AMSP), and the regional support available through the North Mids Maths Hub.

MEI’s underlying aim is to develop ways of working that can bring about long-term, sustained improvements to maths education outcomes in towns and cities where young people’s maths education outcomes are below national expectations.

The success of the work carried out so far in Stoke-on-Trent is reflected in the maths education performance data.

The diagram below gives an overview of MEI’s vision for how coordinated, locally-tailored support for teachers of maths across primary schools, secondary schools and post-16 colleges can contribute to improved student outcomes in maths across a town or city.

This locally-tailored provision is integrated with national and regional level maths education support from the NCETM, the AMSP and the Maths Hubs to maximise impact.


The Stoke-on-Trent Mathematics Excellence Partnership (MEP) was launched to improve maths education outcomes across the city. The MEP is a collaboration between schools and colleges in the city, local universities and MEI.

MEI’s locally-tailored provision was integrated with national, government-funded maths education support from the NCETM and the AMSP, which MEI is involved in leading, and the regional North Mids Maths Hub.


The Stoke-on-Trent MEP has been backed by funding from Stoke-on-Trent City Council and a local charitable foundation trust. Building on its initial success, the programme expanded to support maths in primary schools in the City through additional government Opportunity Area funding.


Since our work with Stoke-on-Trent began in 2016, the success of the partnership enabled the work to grow and evolve, and new areas were brought very successfully into its original remit.

The professional development courses we’ve delivered have covered aspects of primary, secondary and post-16 maths. Courses include addressing specific topics such as effective approaches to teaching trigonometry, Pythagoras, and mechanics at A level; the use of technology to enhance secondary maths teaching; courses on teaching maths to greater depth in Year 6; and lesson design at primary that enhances and complements the NCETM Maths Hub provision. Other examples include courses on strategies for engaging lower attainers in Key Stage 4, and supporting students’ transition from Key Stage 2 to Key Stage 3.

We also developed and delivered bespoke maths education leadership professional development programmes for primary, secondary and FE colleagues.

Working with the three local colleges, we led a successful project focusing on GCSE Mathematics resits for post-16 students. As well as tailored professional development delivered by our highly respected national experts, our GCSE resit work included running an innovative maths competition to help motivate students and build their confidence.


Our tailored series of maths leadership professional development courses has been completed by 45 secondary school teachers from 13 of Stoke’s secondary schools, and 52 primary school teachers from 38 of Stoke’s primary schools. Of those attending the secondary professional development, 28 (more than 60%) have since been promoted, eight of whom are now part of senior leadership teams in secondary schools across the City. Teachers from post-16 colleges have also benefitted, resulting in improved outcomes for GCSE Mathematics resit students.

The success of our maths education leadership programmes has supported the development of maths education leadership skills within the city, boosting the number of quality leaders in the subject and supporting maths teacher retention.

Our GCSE Mathematics resit work has helped 4,000 students improve their maths and approach their resits with more knowledge and confidence.

Maths leader and teacher networks are now well established, enabling effective sharing of good practice. The programmes have fostered a culture of collaboration and mutual support, enabling teachers to work together to help improve maths education outcomes for all students across the city.

The maths performance data are very encouraging:

GCSE Mathematics outcomes at the end of Key Stage 4

YearGrade A/A* (pre-2017)
Grade 7+ (2017 onwards)
Grade 5+ (2017 onwards)Grade C+ (pre-2017)
Grade 4+ (2017 onwards)

The average national proportions for the current GCSE Mathematics specifications, first examined in 2017, are 20% for grade 7+, 50% for grade 5+ and 70% for grade 4+.

The data in the table above show that significant progress has been made, with an improving trend and the gaps between the Stoke results and the national averages narrowing year on year.

Participation in level 3 maths post-16

There has also been a substantial increase in the number of post-16 students completing level 3 maths qualifications.

YearA level Mathematics entriesA level Further Mathematics entriesA level Statistics entriesCore Maths entries

Level 3 Mathematics performance measure

This measure gives the proportion of students achieving a grade 4+ in GCSE Mathematics who go on to study maths at level 3 post-16.

YearStoke MEPNational average

As for GCSE Mathematics at age 16, these level 3 maths data show that significant progress has been made, with performance increasing much faster than the national average, though there is still some room for improvement.

GCSE Mathematics resit performance measure

This measure applies to students who achieved less than a grade 4 in GCSE Mathematics at age 16. It is the average change in GCSE Mathematics grade compared to the grade they achieved at age 16. Some post-16 students who did not achieve a grade 4+ in GCSE Mathematics take Functional Skills Mathematics qualifications, rather than re-sitting GCSE Mathematics. The performance points system enables these students’ Functional Skills Mathematics grades to be incorporated into the performance measure.

YearStoke MEPNational average
2019  0.030.08

As for the other maths performance measures, the GCSE Mathematics resit performance measure shows that significant progress has been made. Performance in the Stoke MEP is increasing much faster than the national average, though there is still some room for improvement.

“By working with MEI, the Stoke-on-Trent Mathematics Excellence Partnership has benefitted from national expertise.

We have worked to a flexible model, asking schools how we can support them in developing teaching and learning – and MEI has created new CPD sessions, resources, and offered advice and guidance bespoke to the needs of the City’s maths community, filling in the gaps where support wasn’t previously available.

The flexibility and quality MEI has offered in supporting the development work has been amazing.”

Ceri Bedford, Project Lead, Stoke-on-Trent Mathematics Excellence Partnership

“Problem-solving skills have steadily improved over time. Students now seem to attempt more of this style of questions showing improved resilience.”

A teacher of maths who attended an MEI course

“What keeps maths teachers teaching? This sort of support, recognition and development.”

A leader of maths who attended an MEI course

“We’re delighted that Ofsted has highlighted the progress we have made with improving the success of students resitting GCSE Mathematics at Stoke College. The expert support we have had from the national maths education charity, MEI, made a significant contribution to this success.”

Geoff Willis, Director of Teaching, Learning and Assessment at the City of Stoke on Trent Sixth Form College