[G]CSE exam board Edexcel has selected the maths department of Penrith’s Queen Elizabeth Grammar School as one of their seven national case studies.
The QEGS study looks at the work of the department which led to the school’s impressive results in the first year of the new 9-1 grade GCSE curriculum.
All 126 QEGS year 11 students who took the new maths exam in June 2017 gained a standard pass of Grade 4 or above (equivalent to a C Grade), with 97% gaining a strong pass of 5 or above. 62% of the cohort gained the top grades of 7-9 (equivalent to an A or above) with 37% of students gaining the top grades of 8 and 9.
Head of Maths, Mrs Nadine Ford, said: “The challenges posed by the new curriculum were significant. There is more information to teach in the same amount of time, a different style of question that students were not used to answering and the new grading system – which staff had little confidence in.”
“To address these, we focussed on teaching the new material in lesson time and, by increasing the number of maths lessons in year 11, were able to finish the curriculum by March. We held regular tests and two mock examinations to help highlight any areas students needed clarifying. Outside of lesson time, we launched a lunch time problem solving club to practice the new style of question and some students received additional tuition at the end of the normal school day.
“We have now made bold changes to the way we teach mathematics in years 7 and 8, which I think will have a significant impact on results going forward and on students’ confidence to tackle new and unusual problems.”
The new curriculum was introduced in 2015 with the first exams taken in 2017. The revised curriculum covers more information than previously and places a greater emphasis on problem solving and mathematical reasoning. The total time students will spend in maths exams has also increased. The grading was changed at the same time, from the traditional A* – U to a numbered system of 9 – 1, with 9 being the highest. The Department for Education claims the new curriculum will make the qualification more rigorous, better preparing students for work. The DoE says the new grading will allow employers to easily identify which version of the GCSE applicants have gained.
Headteacher, Mr Paul Buckland, said: “Our teaching staff has risen admirably to the challenges brought by the new curriculum, which has involved an enormous amount of extra work, much of which has been during teachers’ own time.
“QEGS is incredibly proud of the work of our maths department, and the recognition that Edexcel has given to Mrs Ford and her team is richly deserved.”