Centre for Research in Mathematics Education (CRME)

Mathematics in Further Education Colleges

Project information

Start date

September 2017


End date

November 2020


Principal Investigator

Professor Andy Noyes



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For further details about this project, please email us.

Email Diane Dalby



In recent years a great deal of policy and research attention has centred on advanced post-16 mathematics. This project will focus instead on mathematics within vocational pathways in Further Education (FE) colleges in England with a particular emphasis on the progression of those with low attainment at GCSE.

The project takes a multi-scale view of this complex system and the interlinking factors that shape the learning experiences and trajectories of young people with mathematics. This includes a close examination of the intersection between their mathematical and vocational learning and the ways in which mathematics policies and practices are enacted in FE colleges.


The project aims to produce robust, evidence-based advice for policymakers, college managers and practitioners on the pressing issue issue of how to improve the quality of mathematics education in England’s Further Education colleges. This will inform the future agenda for research and development in this critically important phase of mathematical/ vocational education.


The project employs a mixed-methods research design to investigate the complex interplay between factors that directly or indirectly affect students’ mathematical trajectories, outcomes and vocational learning. We will assess the effectiveness of current policies and practices and the key issues framing mathematics education in colleges.

A multi-scale approach will be used to investigate significant levels of FE mathematics education: the national policy landscape, patterns of learner engagement over time; college level policy enactment and curriculum implementation; teacher workforce skills and motivations; and student learning of mathematics in vocational contexts. 

The project will produce the following:

  1. A state of the art literature review of relevant research and a policy trajectory analysis of mathematics in FE since 2000
  2. Analyses of who gets what mathematics qualifications in FE (using the Individualised Learner Record) and of students’ trajectories into employment (using the Next Steps Survey)
  3. Rich institutional case studies and cross-case analyses of mathematics policy enactment, curriculum provision, learner pathways, workforce training and development needs
  4. A survey and analysis of the mathematics teacher workforce in General Further Education colleges which will complement existing workforce data reports


Centre for Research in Mathematics Education

School of Education
University of Nottingham
Jubilee Campus
Nottingham, NG8 1BB

+44 (0)115 951 4543