Introducing the Trailblazers

NCETM Director for Post-16 GCSE/FSQ, Emma Bell, shares details of a new cohort of Mastery Specialists


Introducing the Trailblazers

the first person to do something new, a pioneer, one who shows what is possible for others

Months of collaboration, planning and anticipation came together perfectly at the beginning of May when I hosted the online launch for the Trailblazers – ten expert teachers in Further Education maths who will be our first Post-16 GCSE/FSQ Mastery Specialists.

We are building on the success of the Primary and Secondary Mastery Specialist Programmes. These programmes have been running for several years, and have trained hundreds of teachers across England as experts in teaching for mastery approaches. Post-16 GCSE/FSQ Mastery Specialists are part of a brand new programme specifically designed for teachers of compulsory maths in Further Education settings. Its focus is to develop the mathematical skills and confidence of students aged 16-19 who are enrolled under the Condition of Funding policy to study GCSE Resit or Functional Skills.

The Centres for Excellence in Maths (CfEM) project, which ended in March 2023, has left behind a rich legacy of research and an increased appetite for sector-led professional development in the FE sector. I had been part of the CfEM project since its start in 2018, and now, in my role with the NCETM, I am in a unique position to help redefine the landscape of teaching maths in GCSE Resit and Functional Skills.

Our ten Trailblazers will have a fundamental role in the development programme, working with me to trial and evaluate the materials, and be advocates for teaching for mastery in FE. They were chosen to represent a cross-section of teachers and establishments who deliver compulsory maths to 16-19 year olds – from General FE Colleges to 16-19 Academies to Land-based Colleges to UTCs – and bring with them a wealth of FE-specific experience and knowledge to further enhance the new Mastery Specialist Programme.

The first full cohort of 40 Post-16 Mastery Specialists will begin their journey in the autumn of 2023, following the lead of the initial Trailblazers. Applications for the programme far outnumbered the places available, and Maths Hubs have been recruiting Post-16 Mastery Specialists alongside their Primary and Secondary counterparts. We plan to have a new cohort every year, each joining a growing collaborative network of specialists who work with maths colleagues in their establishments.

The online launch introduced the Trailblazers to the programme, and to each other. They were each accompanied by a senior leader from their establishment who was able to share in the enthusiasm and dedication which resonated through the session. During the launch, we began to unpick the Five Big Ideas in Teaching for Mastery using an FE-lens, reinforcing the fact that this programme is focused on engaging GCSE Resit and Functional Skills students with their maths studies. The Five Big Ideas, together with The Essence of Mathematics Teaching for Mastery, will be explored further over the duration of the programme, starting with our first residential event in July.

In the group, there’s a palpable sense of being part of something special. Something that will make such a positive difference to the outcomes and life-chances of students. 

The Trailblazers are proud to be leading the way.