GCSE Maths Resits in Post-16 Education: What results can we expect? by Gary Jones @DrGaryJones

In my previous post I reported on the results various post-16 providers could expect for those learners with a grade D GCSE English having to re-take this qualification as part of their programme of study. In this post, I will undertake a similar analysis for GCSE maths and will be using data from the Statistical First Release Level 1 and 2 attainment in English and maths by students aged 16-18: academic year 2012/13, published in September 2014. So what does the data indicate, well for learners who left school in 2011 with a grade D in GCSE maths who by the end of the 2013 academic year had achieved a grade C or better:

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Screen Shot 2015-02-10 at 21.20.13

We now need to take into account the percentage of students who commenced post-16 education with a grade D in GCSE maths and who were subsequently entered to re-take qualification.

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Screen Shot 2015-02-10 at 21.22.03

What we can do now is calculate the ‘success rate’ over a two-year period for students who may have re-sat GCSE maths on at least one occasion.

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Screen Shot 2015-02-10 at 21.23.51

However, what this table does not reveal the range of performance between different institutions. The following table illustrates the range of performance between colleges as regards the % of ‘D’ on entry learners who subsequently achieved grade A*- C GCSE maths.

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Screen Shot 2015-02-10 at 21.25.10

It should be noted that in the colleges where no ‘D’ learners achieved a grade A*-C in GCSE maths between 10 % and 31 % of such learners achieved an alternative level 2 maths qualification.

In the frequency chart below we can easily see the scale of the challenge for GFE colleges, with approximately 40 colleges having less than 4% of ‘D’ learners subsequently achieving a grade C or better in GCSE maths

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Screen Shot 2015-02-10 at 21.34.34

Percentage of learners entering with a D in GCSE maths subsequently achieving A* to C in GCSE maths

So what are the implications of this overview?

The implications for the sector are broadly consistent with those in my previous observations on GCSE English. However, given the importance of maths for both individual and collective prosperity they are worth re-emphasising.

  • For the sector as a whole, but in GFE colleges in particular, there is a significant capacity building exercise to be undertaken, with the GCSE English/maths provision having to increase by approximately 400% if all ‘D’ learners are subsequently to take GCSE maths.
  • Many colleges will be finding the new requirements extremely challenging ass they clearly have to build the capacity and capability to deliver GCSE maths almost from scratch.
  • If Sixth Form Colleges are used as a guide, it might be realistic to expect approximately 54% of ‘D’ learners in GFE and Tertiary College to achieve a grade C or better.
  • However, drawing too many conclusions from SFCs for the GFE sector maybe problematic given the different GCSE grade profile of both sets of learners (all other things being equal you would expect SFC learners to have a better GCSE grade profile than GFE learners).
  • Individual examination pass rates for D learners in any one re-sit are very unlikely to exceed 30%, as a number of learners may have to multiple re-sit opportunities over a two year period.
  • Given the challenges above and the implications for success rates, there is a risk that the system will be ‘gamed’ to the detriment of learners.
  • Given in previous years the relatively small percentage of D learners in both GFE and Tertiary colleges being for entered GCSE maths any conclusions drawn from the above analysis can only be tentative.

Just as for GCSE English, no one should underestimate the scale of the challenge for colleges if they are going to meet the requirement that all learners with a grade D in GCSE are subsequently re-entered for GCSE maths. It is the view of the author that future policy changes should be ‘audited’ for resource implications prior to implementation.

Note * the calculations are only approximate as have been calculated by using averaging the results of colleges.