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Maths GCSE Resit Support Research:  October 2017-December 2018

This piece of research was commissioned by the Sussex Learning Network:COP to enhance the teaching and learning of Maths GCSE resits for large numbers of students from NCOP wards aged 16 to 19 in FE colleges.  In Sussex FECs 2856 students are retaking Maths GCSE 2018/19 with 761 of these students from NCOP wards.

Researchers and the Maths specialist team from the School of Education* at the University of Brighton worked closely with Maths teams and GCSE resit students across three colleges to develop bespoke professional development supporting delivery of Maths GCSE resit programmes and bespoke diagnostic testing, individualised learning plans and schemes of work for Maths GCSE resit students.  The project included CPD sessions both within college settings and collaborative workshops with staff from across the colleges.

Key findings:

– College Maths staff professional needs familiarisation around the new Maths GCSE syllabus, developing schemes of work to meet student needs, creative exciting content in Maths lessons and implement measure to increase Maths GCSE resit student’s mathematical literacy

– Barriers to successful teaching and learning of resit students “maths anxiety”, poor attendance, and students feeling pushed into Maths GCSE programmes of study when they don’t feel ready or academically able to achieve a pass. Students also lacked interest in Maths GCSE and considered that they did not understand the need a pass in it or have knowledge about the subject for their future career.

– Maths GCSE resit student feedback:

  • Classes groups of 10 optimum number for 1 to 1 support considered crucial
  • Shorter lessons and more practice completing past Maths GCSE questions
  • Increase tutor encouragement and praise

Students thought it “a waste of time to go through the whole syllabus” but wanted to focus attention on key parts of the curriculum they felt they needed for their GCSE exam.

The CPD aspects of the project and tracking GCSE resit student pass rates are continuing into 2019, building on the success of the project and in recognition of a worrying national picture where” less than a fifth of students managed to achieve a pass a GCSE pass in Maths when they retook Maths GCSE and around two thirds of students did not manage to improve their grades. (Speilman A. 2017 cited in paper)


*Project Team, School of Education, University of Brighton

Dr Carole Robinson, Associate Professor, Project and Research Lead

James Kendrick, Senior Lecturer, Maths subject lead and pedagogical expert

Emma McCrea, Senior Lecturer, Maths subject and pedagogical expert