The early take-up of Core Mathematics

We know from previous research funded by the Foundation – and an overview report by the Foundation – that England is an outlier in terms of post-16 participation in mathematics.

As part of a wider 'overhaul' of the school mathematics curriculum, one potential policy solution to this problem is Core Mathematics. This is a new post-16 mathematics qualification that is equivalent to an AS level, but usually studied over two years.

This project aims to assess the early success (or otherwise) of this new qualification. It also aims to make suggestions for how the government and other agencies can best act to ensure its long-term success.

The researchers will quantify the uptake of Core Mathematics in its first three years of existence, and gather views on how successful Core Mathematics has been in widening post-16 mathematics participation in England.

They will use national datasets to investigate determinants of access, participation and attainment in Core Mathematics across England. They will also investigate if there is any evidence that studying Core Mathematics is beneficial to achievement in other subjects, and track Core Mathematics student progression into higher education.

In addition, the researchers will carry out interviews and focus groups with pupils and teachers to explore their experiences of Core Mathematics, and their attitudes to it. They will also interview headteachers in schools not currently offering Core Mathematics, as well as higher education providers, employer representatives, awarding bodies, mathematics associations and networks, and policy-makers.

The project aims to provide clear policy guidance and practical outcomes to enhance and secure the presence of Core Mathematics in the post-16 mathematics curriculum in England.

Project details



Dr Matt Homer, Dr Indira Banner, Innocent Tasara, and Dr Rachel Mathieson

University of Leeds

Grant amount and duration:


1 March 2017 - 29 February 2020