A new mathematics GCSE curriculum for post-16 resit students

Starting in January 2019, MEI will work in consultation with key stakeholders to develop a new curriculum in mathematics for post-16 GCSE resit students with a greater emphasis on applying mathematics in realistic contexts. A small-scale study will then be conducted to assess the suitability of the curriculum as a basis for an alternative to the existing GCSE Mathematics.

The project aims to start a fresh consideration of appropriate mathematical content and qualifications for GCSE resit students, in line with the recommendations of the Smith review. It is hoped this will improve outcomes for young people, and the wider population, by improving knowledge of, and attitudes towards, mathematics.

In England, young people aged 16-18 who have not achieved grade 4 or higher in GCSE Mathematics are required to continue to work towards achieving it. Those studying full-time who achieved grade 3 are required to resit it, which often results in young people lacking confidence in mathematics and the prospect of ‘more of the same’ can be very de motivating. The resit success rate is also very low. 

Over 170,000 young people resat GCSE Mathematics in the summer of 2018, but only 23.7% achieved at least a grade 4 or equivalent. As a result, many young people do not achieve their full potential and can be left with a lasting sense of failure and a reinforced negative attitude towards mathematics. This may prevent them from engaging with learning and using mathematics in the future.

The standard GCSE Mathematics curriculum, which is designed for 14-16 year olds, attempts to do two things: prepare students for further academic study of mathematics, and develop the knowledge and skills to apply mathematics to practical problems encountered in the workplace and other aspects of life. Most resit students need to focus on the latter.

Project details


Grant amount and duration: 


January 2019 - December 2019


Stella Dudzic, Katharine DaviesMartin Newton and Charlie Stripp Mathematics in Education and Industry (MEI)