Applications for maths centres of excellence open now

FE providers are being asked to apply to become centres of excellence for “basic” maths – as part of plans to address the controversial forced GCSE resits policy.

In November, the Treasury pledged £40 million to establish these centres across the country to “train maths teachers and spread best practice”.

The Department for Education began the invitation process today, expecting to fund around 20 centres over an initial three-year period.

There will be options to extend the centres’ grant funding annually, up to a total of five years.

To be eligible to apply, an institution must have a minimum of 250 pupils with prior attainment in GCSE maths that is below grades 9-4.

“The programme will provide grant funding to build teaching capacity and spread best practice on what works to improve basic maths for learners over the age of 16 with low prior attainment,” the DfE said.

“This will be through trialling pedagogical approaches and sharing this expertise across the post-16 sector. At this stage, we expect that the centres could be grant funded with a minimum of £140,000 per annum and up to a maximum of £300,000 per annum, depending on the total number of centres that the panel wishes to fund and the quality of the agreed plans.”

Each centre of excellence will be led by an “exceptional” post-16 institution, and their networks will be “supported by a central delivery partner” with maths and programme management “expertise to develop improved teaching methods for this cohort”.

To ensure the programme covers the breadth of the country the DfE said it will aim to select at least one centre per English region, with no more than three in any region.

“The ambition of the programme is to increase the number of young people leaving compulsory education with the necessary maths skills for work, learning and life and to see a marked increase in the numbers of students passing their maths GCSE resit and equivalent level two maths qualifications,” the department added.

In July 2017, a review by Professor Adrian Smith said the government’s controversial policy on post-16 GCSE resits should be rethought.

The plea was quickly rejected, but the new centres of excellence are being created to address his concerns

Applications should be submitted to “no later than 5pm” on July 10.

The DfE aims to publicly announce successful institutions in September 2018, and it is expected they will be “operational shortly after they have been notified”.

In December, FE Week speculated on where the centres of excellence might be built. Based on analysis of national achievement rate data for 2015/16, we identified the top 10 best performing-colleges for maths in the country, which you can read here.