Improving the outcomes of GCSE maths resits

 Maths resits
24 Mar 2017 16:44:02.477

PA 56/17

A new study from The University of Nottingham will look at the effectiveness of a professional development programme in helping to improve the results of GCSE maths resits.

In 2013, the coalition government introduced a policy that said that students in England in full-time education who fail to get at least C grades in English and maths should carry on studying them until the age of 18.

But in a speech to the Association of Colleges Ofsted conference, the Head of Ofsted said that ‘last year, less than a fifth of students achieved the required grades (in mathematics) when they resat and two thirds did not improve on their original grades,’ adding, that the statistics were ‘frankly miserable’.

Now, a new study called ‘Maths for life’ will investigate whether a professional development programme is effective in improving the outcomes of maths GCSE resits.

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The study is being funded by the Education Endowment Foundation and J.P.Morgan and is being carried out by experts from the Centre for Research in Mathematics Education (CRME) in the School of Education at The University of Nottingham.

Maths for Life’  builds on previous work by the CRME that has developed a wide range of resources to support dialogic teaching (teaching children how to use language to solve maths problems) based on provoking cognitive conflict in the key areas of mathematical thinking.

In particular it uses materials from the Standards Unit Box (Improving Learning in Mathematics) and other resources developed over many years by Malcolm Swan, Emeritus Professor of Mathematics Education at Nottingham.

In the first phase of the project a team of experts from the University will work with maths leads from colleges and schools in the post-16 sector to develop the professional development programme.

The second year of the project will see a randomised controlled trial of the professional development programme. This will involve fifty teachers in the intervention programme by the lead teachers developed in phase one. The trial will involve an equivalent number of teachers’ students who will experience ‘business as usual’

The purpose of the study is to determine the effectiveness of the approach in improving resit students’ GCSE outcomes in maths and to then continue the programme beyond the trial.

Geoff Wake, Professor of Mathematics Education, is the lead academic for the study. He said: “We are pleased that the Education Endowment Foundation has recognised the potential of previous work carried out by Professor Malcolm Swan and colleagues here in the Centre as perhaps providing an answer for teachers and students to what is a significant problem.

“Our approach focuses on tackling underlying mathematical misconceptions with students working on carefully designed classroom tasks. These draw on the expertise of teachers who use careful questioning and support student discussion as well as developing collaborative teacher inquiry groups that explore the approaches across schools and colleges.

“We will also work with the lead teachers to develop a programme of study that will ensure the approaches are used throughout the year to support students in their preparation for the resit examination.”

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Notes to editors: The University of Nottingham has 43,000 students and is ‘the nearest Britain has to a truly global university, with a “distinct” approach to internationalisation, which rests on those full-scale campuses in China and Malaysia, as well as a large presence in its home city.’ (Times Good University Guide 2016). It is also one of the most popular universities in the UK among graduate employers and was named University of the Year for Graduate Employment in the 2017 The Times and The Sunday Times Good University Guide. It is ranked in the world’s top 75 by the QS World University Rankings 2015/16, and 8th in the UK for research power according to the Research Excellence Framework 2014. It has been voted the world’s greenest campus for four years running, according to Greenmetrics Ranking of World Universities.

Impact: The Nottingham Campaign, its biggest-ever fundraising campaign, is delivering the University’s vision to change lives, tackle global issues and shape the future. More news…



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More information is available from  Professor Geoff Wake  in the School of Education at

Charlotte Anscombe – Media Relations Manager (Arts and Social Sciences)

Email:  Phone:+44 (0)115 74 84 417 Location: University Park

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