Maths in FE (Further Education) is a project delivered by the School of Education, University of Brighton delivered to FE colleges across Sussex including Chichester, Crawley, Sussex Downs, Sussex Coast, GBMET Brighton and Northbrook.   It is designed to support GCSE teaching staff who are supporting learners with Maths re-sits, specifically, those students from our target wards as identified by the National Collaborative Outreach Programme (NCOP).

According to figures released by the Joint Council for Qualifications in August 2017, there were over 74,000 students aged 17 and above in England who received a D grade across the two subjects (English & Maths), resulting in thousands of mandatory re-sits this academic year. Furthermore figures from the Department of Education in 2017 illustrated 70% of students do not attain a grade C maths or equivalent when they resit their exam post – 16.

Steve Rimmer, Chair of the Association of Colleges (AOC) Mental Health Policy group, told a meeting of the Education and Health Select Committee that compulsory resits are contributing to poor mental health amongst learners, with anxiety and stress increasing alongside a sense of ‘failure’; adding yet more challenges to colleges who have outwardly stated that the re-sit policy does not work.

Local colleges have been concerned about the negative impact that GCSE Maths re-sits have on students’ confidence, aspiration and the block to successful progression since the policy came into effect in 2014.  Changes to the curriculum and the necessity of all students up to 19 to pass GCSE Maths is challenging for staff and students in our colleges – in one local college over five hundred students will be retaking Maths GCSE with a high proportion of these students coming from our target gap wards and are registered to re-take Maths GCSE.  For many of these students they could be retaking GCSE Mathematics two or three times without reaching the required pass grade.  Feedback from staff working in Virtual schools with students in care have also reported on the negative effect on young people of failing a qualification not just once but several times.

The project’s Math’s Subject Lead, James Kendrick, has nine years of experience working in a challenging Secondary School teaching GCSE Maths and specialising in working with GCSE C/D borderline students and those who have low motivation and challenging behaviour.  He says:

“With the achievement gap between Pupil Premium (PP) and other students still being so high at GCSE a disproportionate percentage of PP students need to re-sit at college. It is imperative that these students are given the best possible teaching to help them gain the vital GCSE Maths pass that unlocks many future courses and careers. By working closely with the local Maths teams that are delivering this qualification we can help to develop their teaching so that they help more of their students to achieve”.

The School of Education university staff works supportively within each college agreeing a programme of CPD, working with individual tutors and whole Maths teams CPD aimed at supporting GCSE Maths resit students. Bespoke CPD opportunities crafted around specific needs of Maths teams in each college which has included adapting teaching tools such as Numeracy Ninjas to support self-diagnosis and attendance, designing Individual Learning Plans and advice with using diagnostic and online resources.  Our designated SLN:COP college coordinators are supporting the programme by identifying and tracking GCSE resit students who are from our target gap wards.

This project is enabling a creative and localised approach to supporting young people to achieve GCSE Maths which opens up opportunities for them to access pathways such as apprenticeships and other higher level courses as well as employment opportunities.

It will also help us gain a far better understanding of the barriers GCSE Maths resit students face in progressing their performance in GCSE Maths as well as factors which influence their engagement and confidence in difference aspects of Maths.  The research element of this project is  led by Dr Carole Robinson, Associate Professor in the Education Research centre, and will aim to provide FE colleges  a greater understanding of the CPD requirements of college maths teams  and the pedagogical needs of GCSE Maths resit students (available December 2018.)

This programme is being funded by SLN:COP as part of the National Collaborative Programme. For further information please email our Post 16 Liaison Programme Manager, Lucy Jenks