School of Education

England's largest maths education cohort study

Latest update from the Observatory for Mathematical Education

In November 2023, we announced the establishment of the Observatory for Mathematical Education, made possible with a founding grant of £8 million from XTX Markets.

Now, five months later, the recruitment of 200 primary and 150 secondary schools is about to begin. These invited schools will host two seven-year cohort studies starting in 2024/5: from reception to year 6, and year 7 to year 13. The cohort studies comprise surveys of tens of thousands of students, teachers, subject leaders and parents.  They will also feature institutional case studies including teacher interviews and classroom observations.

In parallel, a survey of new mathematics undergraduates is being planned for this September as part of a third cohort study that will investigate student experiences from pre-university to postgraduate study. These cohort studies, along with the establishment of a dedicated data lab that will use high-quality administrative datasets to explore patterns in learner trajectories over time, comprise the largest focused study of mathematics education ever undertaken in England.

The Observatory’s core research programme is national, multi-scale, and systemic. We are committed to understanding how multiple factors interact to influence learner attitudes and outcomes, in a similar vein to epidemiological studies in health research.  Too often, education research focuses on one element of the system.  We will be working holistically to better understand this complex system in which the whole is more than the sum of the parts.  Furthermore, we are prioritising policy-relevant questions, collaborating with decision makers, system leaders and sector experts to frame the research.

This tremendously exciting core programme is being developed by a growing team of education researchers, statisticians and a dedicated support team; some highly experienced and others at the start of their careers.  Our longitudinal observational studies are complemented by shorter term interventions, evaluations and experimental research (for example RCTs) that range from the early years to further education.

The Observatory’s programme builds on nearly seventy years of high-quality research and development in mathematics education at the University, much of that in the renowned Shell Centre for Mathematical Education.  Altogether this amounts to around £40miliion of investment in R&D (at today’s prices), yet education research and development remains generally underfunded and is highly diffused.

The Observatory will establish a model for large-scale, well-orchestrated educational research programmes that can provide useful, influential insights to those charged with improving outcomes for learners of mathematics across our education system.  In time, these insights will enable the Observatory team, and others, to design new research-informed interventions and initiatives that provide excellent mathematical learning for learners, irrespective of background.

Visit the Observatory for Mathematics Education website
Follow the Observatory on LinkedIn

Posted on Tuesday 23rd April 2024

School of Education

University of Nottingham
Jubilee Campus
Wollaton Road
Nottingham, NG8 1BB

Contact us