30 Oct 2019

GCSE maths: an alternative curriculum for post 16 learners?


Baroness Alison Wolf, whose 2011 vocational education report led to the current GCSE maths and English resits policy, suggests that there is great demand from adults looking to improve their maths, but that a different curriculum is needed for post-16 learners.

At a meeting of the House of Commons Education Committee in October, Baroness Wolf said: "Clearly, we need a different curriculum post-16. One of the problems is very simple, which is that Ofqual, the regulator, says that you can have only one maths GCSE. I know this sounds ridiculous but there is this great big stumbling block. That means that when adults come back into further education or into adult community education and they do want to improve their English and maths, there is huge demand for it. It is not like they do not want to, but they are faced with a single curriculum. This is one of these regulatory roadblocks that possibly only you guys can shift."

As well as maintaining that an alernative curriculum is needed in post-16 education, Baroness Wolf said she believes England should follow the example of Germany and Sweden, where there are alternative curricula to age 18. She went on to say: "As was going to happen at one point—and I do not know quite how it got derailed—we need much more systematic thinking about the maths curriculum post-16 that takes it forward wherever you are at 16. We should be like the rest of Europe—everybody should do maths until we let them out."

Committee member Lucy Powell MP pointed out the new reformed GCSEs recently introduced were “very hard” and required 40% of students to fail each year to maintain standards. 

In January, the Nuffield Foundation awarded circa £60,000 in funding to maths education charity MEI to investigate the feasibility of a new maths GCSE curriculum for post-16 resit students.

Read the meeting transcript


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