07 March 2018
The NCETM Director, Charlie Stripp, has called for GCSE Maths exams to be re-structured, so that more students can demonstrate their abilities, rather than (by failing to answer correctly large amounts of questions) their shortcomings.
In an article in the secondary version of Teachwire, Charlie highlights the low threshold in last summer’s exams for students to get a Grade 4 - equivalent to the old Grade C, and considered to show sufficient competence for a student to continue with some more advanced maths study in post-16 years.
Last year a Grade 4 was awarded to students who got only 20% on the Higher paper and 50% on the Foundation paper.
‘These low thresholds meant that many students were only able to demonstrate what they couldn’t do, rather than showing what they were capable of,’ he writes.
‘Widespread anecdotal evidence suggests that negative exam experiences have deterred students from studying maths post-16, even though their grades were intended to indicate that they were well-prepared to do so.’
In particular, Charlie says the 20% threshold is very damaging and reinforces the view that maths is very hard.
As a remedy, he suggests a new, three-tier of exam papers, so reducing the likelihood that borderline students are entered for a paper that leads to a negative experience and undermines enthusiasm for maths as a subject.