‘Groundbreaking’ GCSE maths resit trial gets cash injection

Funding aims to recruit 160 teachers to partake in next phase of study

Funding aims to recruit 160 teachers to partake in next phase of study

A “groundbreaking” study that indicated radical progress in GCSE maths resit results has received a cash boost to expand its research.

The Education Endowment Foundation (EEF) has committed £630,575 for researchers to test new teaching approaches for college learners resitting the subject – the second largest donation ever made for a post-16 education project by the charity.

The funding will allow 160 extra teachers from FE colleges across the country to partake in the effectiveness of the Mastering Maths trial.

The research is hoped to provide a much-needed boost to maths resits pass rates, which recently fell to 22.9 per cent last year.

Since 2014, colleges have been required to help learners achieve a grade 4 or above when retaking their GCSEs or risk losing funding.

From next year, maths resit students must study the subject for a minimum of four hours per week under controversial new rules.

The Mastering Maths study is carried out by the University of Nottingham’s Centre for Research in Mathematics Education and the independent evaluation will be led by the National Centre for Social Research.

The initial pilot found students being taught by teachers on the Mastering Maths professional development programme made one month of additional progress compared with their peers, and disadvantaged students made even more gains.

Students who were from disadvantaged backgrounds, i.e. eligible for free school meals, made two additional months of learning progress.

The pilot project took place across 147 college sites and 7,453 students between October 2021 and June 2022.

It investigated three levels of intervention – placebo, partial and full which involved teachers working with lesson resources and engaging in two days of face-to-face CPD run by a lead teacher on the fundamentals of the study that should be embedded within maths teaching.

Full intervention features seven lessons using methods learned from the online sessions as well as a programme of “lesson study” which saw groups of teachers come together five times across the year and observe one of the group teaching a class, before discussing the lesson afterwards.

This time, the trial will entail an intervention group and a control (placebo) group for the 2024/25 academic year.

Researchers say the effectiveness trial will be looking for answers to why disadvantaged learners made more progress than their peers.

“We can only guess, but the research will do a little bit more to try and work that out,” said Geoff Wake, Professor of Mathematics Education at Nottingham University.

“We’re doing less telling, more engaging students try to work things out in a way that’s appropriate for them. That’s the design in the intervention and I think that’s made a huge difference,” he added.

The study is recruiting FE teachers from across England and have until June 21 to sign up.

Colleges will also receive £250 to cover the participating teachers’ classes for each lesson study meeting (£1,250 for five meetings). Additionally, each college setting in the control group will receive a thank-you payment of £1,000 for the collection of student data.

To be eligible, teachers must teach at least one GCSE maths class and should not have participated in the Mastering Maths efficacy trial as either a lead teacher or intervention teacher. They should also not be taking part in the NCETM Teaching for Mastery “trailblazer”, “cohort one” cohorts, or any other substantial professional development during the 2024/25 academic year.

The EEF has made funding available for post-16 education research previously, the largest of which was a £641,115 boost to Maths for Life, a maths resit study in 2018.

Earlier last year, the prime minister made a pledge of £40m to the EEF to expand its focus to post-16, plus £60m over two years to improve maths education.

The EEF is also currently involved in the Association of Colleges’ study of the 5Rs (recall, routine, revise, repeat, ready) teaching approach to GCSE maths resits, funded through DfE’s accelerator fund. Results of this study are expected this autumn.

Professor Becky Francis, chief executive of the EEF, said: “We know that this period offers our ‘last chance’ to minimise socio-economic attainment gaps before most young people leave the education system. We also know how important it is for future life chances to achieve a good level of maths. “It is our hope that further trials will offer post-16 educators high-quality options to consider when looking to make meaningful changes to their classroom practice.”

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  1. Bryan Hollinworth

    An excellent initiative and long overdue!
    The new maths curriculum from 2015 is indeed quite challenging. On a positive note, application questions are most welcome in a FE environment.