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Don’t Let Down The GCSE Class of 2017

tutor2u Maths

19th July 2017

Entries for AS and A Level Maths have been strong in recent years, but this isn’t looking likely to continue when the new linear A Levels are introduced in September. Reforms to A Level and GCSE are going to take their toll. This article looks at how these reforms are likely to affect the number of students choosing to study AS Maths, A Level Maths and Further Maths.

The Maths Association’s recent study1 of the appetite for studying A Level Maths next year makes alarming reading.  Of the maths departments surveyed, more than 50% reported at least a 10% decrease in applications to study A Level Maths in September 2017.

This is on the back of a successful recruitment drive for more A Level Maths students over recent years.  Since 2014, whilst the total number of entries for all A Level subjects remained broadly the same, A Level Maths entries increased by 7%.  Further Maths entries also increased by 7% both at AS and A Level, but 25% of maths departments are expecting 50% or fewer students taking up Further Maths this September compared to last. 

2014-2017 maths entries steady, but for how much longer?

The GCSE Class of 2017 isn’t any less prepared for A Level Maths.  They’ve had their confidence knocked in a big way.  That’s one reason why fewer students want to study maths next year.  Having faced two years of uncertainty about the final assessment of their GCSE exams, who can blame them for feeling like this.  It’s ironic and frustrating that the tougher GCSE makes the Class of 2017 better prepared for A Level yet fewer want to continue with the subject.  GCSE reforms are arguably a positive step, but if these changes put off students from taking up A Level Maths that’s a hefty price to pay. 

As if the GCSE reforms were not enough to contend with, the impact of A Level reforms are going to cause a double whammy on maths entries.  OFQUAL’s provisional figure2 for the number of AS entries (all subjects) in 2017 is down a whopping 42% on 2016. 

AS and A Level Entries 2014-2017 – All Subjects

Schools are clearly abandoning Year 12 AS entries in favour of A Level entries at the end of Year 13.  With this and schools now encouraging the study of three not four A Levels at the start of Year 12, surely AS Maths numbers are about to suffer the serious decline that was postulated when the reforms were first announced in 2014. 

Maths teachers and leaders in education have an obligation to educate against this decline.  We cannot let all the hard work to encourage increased take-up of the subject be undone.  Empathy is needed for the Class of 2017 who took their GCSE maths this summer.  We need to show that we understand their sufferings throughout the reforms and, crucially, let it be known that they are in-fact better placed (not worse placed) to study maths beyond GCSE.  Don’t let down The GCSE Class of 2017! 

1. Exclusive: Maths 'disaster' as schools report 'alarming' decline in post-16 take-up, TES

2. Summer 2017 exam entries: GCSEs, level 1 / 2 certificates, AS and A levels in England, Ofqual

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