National Collaborative Outreach Programme GCSE Mathematics Resit Support Project

  • Robinson, Carol (PI)
  • Kendrick, James (CoI)
  • McCrea, Emma (CoI)

Project Details


This project was part of the National Collaborative Outreach Programme (NCOP), funded by the Higher Education Funding Council for England (HEFCE). HEFCE developed NCOP in response to the Government’s ambition to double the proportion of students from disadvantaged backgrounds in Higher Education (HE) by 2020, from a 2009 baseline, to increase by 20 per cent the number of young people from ethnic minority groups entering HE and address the under-representation of young men from disadvantaged backgrounds in HE.

The Sussex Learning Network (SLN) was successful in bidding for and receiving NCOP funding to deliver programmes of support across Sussex to help address this issue locally.

As part of this work, one of the specific groups targeted by SLN was post-16 NCOP students who have not yet achieved GCSE Maths. It was estimated that several hundred post-16 students across Sussex had not achieved GCSE Maths and that this was preventing them from being accepted on to courses (HE or otherwise) they would like to follow.

The projective objectives were to support and enhance the quality of teaching and learning for GCSE Maths resit students, and to ascertain tutors' and students’ perspectives of the challenges faced by students resitting Maths GCSE. The target audience was NCOP students, however, the ambition was that other students not residing in NCOP wards would also benefit from the support offered.

Key findings

1. The professional development needs of college Maths GCSE resit tutors

The specific professional development needs of the college Maths GCSE resit tutors can be classified into common themes as follows:

Supporting Maths GCSE resit tutors to:
• Become more familiar and confident with the new Maths GCSE syllabus.
• Increase subject knowledge and confidence in teaching Maths (especially in the case of less experienced Maths tutors).
• Develop Schemes of Work (SoW) to meet students’ needs, rather than trying to cover the whole syllabus with all students and repeating topics in which many students already feel confident.
• Devise ways of measuring student progress and differentiating work for students of different abilities.
• Analyse students’ answers to past GCSE examination papers to identify trends, strengths and gaps in knowledge, and develop diagnostic analyses for individual, class or cohorts of students (depending on Maths tutors’ preferences) to enable this information to be used to set future homework and inform lesson planning.
• Improve behaviour management skills.
• Develop effective questioning to challenge students.
• Develop creative, exciting starters for lessons.
• Develop strategies to improve students’ basic numeracy.
• Help students to develop an exam strategy to help raise achievement and lower anxiety.
• Implement measures to:
o increase Maths GCSE resit students’ mathematical literacy and confidence in their
ability in Maths;
o increase levels of student engagement;
o develop programmes of work for low attainers;
o prepare students, including increasing their confidence, for taking their Maths GCSE
resit examination, especially in cases where students have had more than one
previous attempt at the examination;
o enhance students’ revision skills.
GCSE Maths tutors also stated that they would like:
• To observe members of the UoB’s School of Education Maths specialist team model lessons for them to observe and discuss.
• To be observed by a member of the Maths specialist team. However, tutors specifically stated that they did not want formal written feedback on these observations; their preference was for confidential, informal conversations between the observer and the tutor following an observation.
• Opportunities to share best practice with Maths GCSE resit tutors from other colleges.
2. Maths GCSE resit tutors’ perspectives of what supports and what hinders Maths GCSE resit students’ learning

Factors that facilitate students’ learning, as identified by Maths GCSE resit tutors
• Being able to identify, and address, where students’ mathematical misconceptions create a barrier to understanding.
• Short Maths lessons once or twice per week, rather than more lengthy lessons during which students lose concentration.
• Ensuring students are prepared for the content of the new specification Maths GCSE
Barriers to teaching and learning identified by Maths GCSE resit tutors
• ‘Maths anxiety’, low attendance, disengagement and lack of motivation amongst students.
• Maths GCSE resit lessons being perceived by students as a punishment, for example, in cases where students are threatened with being removed from their course if they do not attend Maths GCSE resit classes.
• Students being ‘pushed’ into Maths GCSE programmes of study and examinations when they are not considered to be ready or academically able to achieve a pass, for example, where their previous attainment in Maths has been very low.
• Lack of tutor confidence in teaching Maths GCSE.
• Lack of support from vocational tutors about the relevance of Maths to their subject.

3. Maths GCSE resit students’ perspectives of what supports and what hinders Maths GCSE resit learning

Factors facilitating students’ learning identified by Maths GCSE resit students
• Practicing/completing past Maths GCSE examination questions.
• Tutor encouragement and praise, particularly when students have completed work to a high standard and/or have put a lot of effort into completing a piece of work.
• 1-1 support from Maths tutors – this was considered crucial for learning, especially where support was given in areas in which students lacked mathematical understanding.
• Tutors being aware of the areas of Maths on which to focus attention – students considered it a waste of time for Maths tutors to attempt to go through the whole GCSE syllabus, including areas in which they were already knowledgeable.
Barriers to learning identified by Maths GCSE resit students
• Maths lessons being too lengthy – where Maths lessons were longer that two hours students found it difficult to concentrate.
• Maths classes being too large - students identified a class size of approximately 10 as the optimum size, with classes of 20 resulting in them getting too little support from Maths tutors.
• Lack of interest in Maths - many students lacked interest in Maths as they considered they did not need a pass in, or knowledge about, the subject for their future career.
• Lack of confidence in their Maths ability - many students lacked confidence in their own ability in Maths, often assuming that they were unlikely to pass their GCSE resit exam.
Drawing on the professional development needs identified by Maths GCSE resit tutors, and the facilitators and barriers identified by the tutors and Maths GCSE resit students, the UoB Maths specialist team developed various forms of bespoke professional development for whole Maths teams, as well as for individual tutors, within the participating colleges. These included:
• Professional development days hosted by the UoB’s School of Education’s Maths specialist team, open to all college Maths GCSE resit tutors. One of the key factors that contributed to the success of these days was that the college Maths tutors and the Maths specialist team co-constructed SoW and a lesson structure for use in the colleges.
• Bespoke professional development sessions and days at individual colleges, based on the specific needs of tutors within each of the colleges.
• Observations of, and confidential feedback to, individual Maths GCSE resit tutors.
• The development of bespoke resources in line with the requirements of individual tutors and colleges, to support the teaching of GCSE Maths resit students. These were made available to all Maths tutors in the participating colleges through an online resource hub.
• The development of bespoke diagnostic testing for Maths tutors for use with Maths GCSE resit students.
Short titleGCSE Mathematics Resit Support
Effective start/end date1/10/1730/09/18


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