Deck the halls with boughs of holly, ‘tis the season for … GCSE mocks – in many schools they’re happening now (as the tired pupils limp towards the end of a long term) or they’re scheduled for early January, so that they hang over Christmas and New Year worse than, say, a hangover. One consequence of the mocks, usually an unintended one, is that the pupils use them to steer their decisions about further study post-16: a low grade now, despite all the caveats around it, often leads to a hard-to-reverse decision not to take that subject further in Year 12. It therefore seems an appropriate time for our monthly sixth form-focused feature to help and support you as you encourage your Year 11 pupils to aim to study Maths post-16.
In doing so, you are not alone! There are a lot of resources available to teachers and pupils, mainly because the leading Maths organisations, understandably, are keen to promote further study of the subject, but also because the government has made increasing the study of Maths post-16, especially at level 3, one of its priorities, and has allocated funding to achieving this. Good places to look include:
- The Your Life website. This is a “three-year campaign to ensure young adults in the UK have the maths and science skills needed to succeed in the current competitive global economy. It looks to inspire young people to study Maths and Physics as a gateway into wide-ranging careers whilst also triggering employers to recruit and retain this talent”. There is a particular focus on encouraging girls to study these two subjects, but the resources are not gender-specific.
- On the Further Maths Support Programme website there is lots of advice directly for pupils, as well as resources for teachers. On the page Encouraging Girls to Take Mathematics there is a link to a very good presentation to show to parents/carers (of both boys and girls). Although lots of the material is designed to encourage pupils to study Further Maths, many of the arguments apply also to studying single Maths.
- Websites such as Best4Me and Maths Careers are full of good case studies to answer the inevitable “why Maths?” question.
- A number of research papers can be accessed through the NCETM website. The 2010 paper Widening Participation in Mathematics is an excellent digest of recent research and activity.
Your current Year 11 pupils may have the opportunity to choose to study Core Maths in Year 12. This is a new qualification being taught for the first time this year; so far about 200 schools and colleges are offering it, and more will do so next year. The “target audience” is pupils with grade C or above at GCSE who don’t want to study AS Maths but do want to deepen their mathematical knowledge and develop their skills, perhaps to complement the other subjects they are studying: Core Maths is an ideal partner to any Humanity or Social Science, for example. If you’re unfamiliar with Core Maths, the best place to get information is the ideally-named Core Maths Support Programme website, which is a microsite within the NCETM site.
Improving participation in level 3 Maths post-16 is a major priority of each of the new Maths Hubs. Your local Maths Hub Lead School is currently putting together a Work Group to lead research and innovation into this challenge, and so do get in touch if you’d like to find out more, or be involved directly.
We all know the value of peer-learning, so we’ve asked Claire Baldwin to share her experience with us. Claire, who now is one of the FMSP Central Coordinators, was Curriculum Area Leader for Mathematics and Sciences, and later Assistant Principal with responsibility for Curriculum, at the outstanding Rochdale Sixth Form College from 2010 to 2014. Claire was particularly involved with raising participation there.
“Our philosophy from the moment the College opened in September 2010 was one of ‘compassionate rigour’. We cultivated close and meaningful relationships with local partner schools so that we had a real sense of where our students came from, their experiences and their perspectives. In the summer term we offered several highly popular ‘Taster Days’ where local Year 10 students could sample lessons in subjects they were interested in studying at A level. We also offered ‘Mathematics Masterclasses’ for groups of around 50 A*/A grade students from individual local schools, supported by current A2 Maths and Further Maths students who had previously studied at the same 11-16 school: this showed Year 11 students that the study of Mathematics post-16 is accessible and achievable.
"Every applicant to the College was interviewed by the Principal or a member of the senior team, so we knew that they were getting a consistent message and clear advice about their subject choices. Open Days were friendly, participatory events, with visitors invited to sample learning resources, ask questions and meet current students. Often the students gave a more glowing and sincere recommendation than any member of staff ever could!
"In the Mathematics department, we aimed to make the transition to A level as smooth as possible. Finding out students’ mathematical backgrounds was key. Had they taken their GCSE in Year 10 or 11? Had they completed additional qualifications such as the Level 2 Certificate in Further Maths? This insight, along with fortnightly formal assessments, allowed careful tracking of progress and a tailored programme of targeted intervention activities, supported by regular liaison with each student’s personal progress tutor as well as monitoring conversations with the student. Peer mentoring – the pairing of students exceeding their target grade with students who were below target – was also a successful strategy.
"Crucially, the culture was one of ‘you can do it too’, with aspirations to achieve embedded in every lesson”.
Page header by Richard Gray (adapted), some rights reserved