Core Maths could boost post-16 students’ numeracy skills

By Nuffield Foundation

Core Maths could boost A-level and BTEC students’ numeracy skills and help meet ambitious government targets, according to Nuffield-funded research from the University of Leeds.

Core Maths was introduced six years ago to improve critical thinking and problem-solving related to real-life experiences. Although uptake has been limited, it could now be a much-needed resource as students return to their studies after a six-month break due to the COVID-19 crisis.

Introduced in 2014, with the first Core Maths exams took in 2016. Initially, just 2,930 took the qualification; that number has risen slowly but steadily, with 11,791 entrants this year (2020).

The qualification, taken as a one-year or a two-year course alongside other qualifications like A-levels and BTECs, was established as part of government policy to substantially increase post-16 mathematics participation in England. It was introduced as part of wide-ranging curriculum and assessment reforms overseen by the coalition government of 2010-2015.

Globally, participation in post-16 mathematics in England remains much lower than in many other economically developed countries. Although there were 85,000 maths A-level students in England in 2019, over 200,000 other learners with good GCSE maths passes dropped the subject completely. This has many negative implications for individuals, society and the wider economy.

The three-year study, funded by the Nuffield Foundation, included analysis of national data, interviews with staff and students at 13 educational institutions across the UK, and an online survey.

Despite recognition that maths skills and confidence are important for study, work and everyday life, attempts to increase the numbers of post-16 students continuing with maths on a national scale are hitting a number of barriers, and growth, though steady, is relatively slow. Although aimed at all post-16 students, the ability of schools to offer Core Maths has been limited by funding issues, staff availability and a perceived lack of support from the government and higher education, said the report. As a result, currently, post-16 colleges with much larger student numbers than school sixth forms were potentially better positioned financially to offer the qualification.

Recommendations

Recommendations in the report include raising the profile and awareness of the benefits of Core Maths among stakeholders such as schools, colleges and universities, as well as making the qualification free to adult learners.

The report also calls for a resolution to long-term funding issues, more support from Ofsted, and improvements in maths teacher recruitment and retention to support increased Core Maths take-up.

Lead author Dr Matt Homer, from Leeds’s School of Education, said: “Core Maths is a great way for students to ease back into mathematical thinking after a long absence from the classroom.

“Students enrolling on subjects which have mathematical or quantitative aspects to them, such as Psychology, Business Studies, Geography or Applied Science, would benefit greatly from studying Core Maths alongside their A-levels or BTECs.

“Enrolling on this additional course of study would also give students the tools necessary to understand statistics that affect everyday life, from managing mortgages, tax and loans, to scrutinising facts and figures about the current coronavirus pandemic or the furore around the Ofqual algorithm abandoned recently.”

More about this project


By Nuffield Foundation

Explore our projects

Young-boy-uses-tablet-with-mother-for-maths-learning-Can-maths-apps-add-value-to-learning-PROJ
New

Education | 2020 - 2022

Can maths apps add value to learning?

View project
New

Education | 2020 - 2022

Evaluating the short- and medium-term impacts of Sure Start

View project
Male-teacher-teaches-teenagers-in-secondary-school-lesson-Autonomous-schools-and-the-teacher-labour-market-Evidence-from-academies-PROJ
New

Education | 2020 - 2021

Autonomous schools and the teacher labour market: Evidence from academies

View project
New

Education | 2020 - 2021

Ethical principles underpinning co-production with young people

View project
New

Education | 2020 - 2020

COVID-19 mitigation measures: education provision and access to special schools

View project
In progress

Education | 2020 - 2020

The impact of COVID-19 on mainstream schools in England

View project
Young-boy-wearing-glasses-watches-laptop-school-lesson-with-notepad-The-effects-COVID-19-on-families-time-use-child-development-PROJ
In progress

Education | 2020 - 2022

The effects of COVID-19 on families’ time-use and child development

View project
Teenage-girl-looks-at-smartphone-next-to-laptop-Growing-up-under-COVID-19-PROJ
In progress

Education | Welfare | 2020 - 2021

Growing up under COVID-19

View project
In progress

Education | 2020 - 2021

Post-16 educational trajectories and social inequalities in political engagement

View project
In progress

Justice | 2020 - 2022

Youth custody: Educational influences and labour market consequences

View project
Teacher in classroom with laughing primary school students, reading a story to them.
New

Education | 2020 - 2022

Gene-environment interplay in early life cognitive development

View project
In progress

Education | 2020 - 2022

Competitive effects of free schools on student outcomes in neighbouring schools

View project
New

Education | 2020 - 2022

Evaluating the short- and medium-term impacts of Sure Start

View project
Teacher in classroom with laughing primary school students, reading a story to them.
New

Education | 2020 - 2022

Gene-environment interplay in early life cognitive development

View project
New

Education | 2020 - 2021

Ethical principles underpinning co-production with young people

View project
New

Education | 2020 - 2020

COVID-19 mitigation measures: education provision and access to special schools

View project
Male-teacher-teaches-teenagers-in-secondary-school-lesson-Autonomous-schools-and-the-teacher-labour-market-Evidence-from-academies-PROJ
New

Education | 2020 - 2021

Autonomous schools and the teacher labour market: Evidence from academies

View project
Young-boy-uses-tablet-with-mother-for-maths-learning-Can-maths-apps-add-value-to-learning-PROJ
New

Education | 2020 - 2022

Can maths apps add value to learning?

View project
In progress

Justice | 2020 - 2022

Youth custody: Educational influences and labour market consequences

View project
In progress

Education | 2020 - 2020

The impact of COVID-19 on mainstream schools in England

View project
Early years worker sitting at table with children
In progress

Education | 2020 - 2021

The ‘common elements’ approach: improving outcomes in early childhood education

View project
Teenage-girl-looks-at-smartphone-next-to-laptop-Growing-up-under-COVID-19-PROJ
In progress

Education | Welfare | 2020 - 2021

Growing up under COVID-19

View project
Young-boy-wearing-glasses-watches-laptop-school-lesson-with-notepad-The-effects-COVID-19-on-families-time-use-child-development-PROJ
In progress

Education | 2020 - 2022

The effects of COVID-19 on families’ time-use and child development

View project
In progress

Education | 2020 - 2021

Post-16 educational trajectories and social inequalities in political engagement

View project
Young-boy-uses-tablet-with-mother-for-maths-learning-Can-maths-apps-add-value-to-learning-PROJ
New

Education | 2020 - 2022

Can maths apps add value to learning?

View project
New

Education | 2020 - 2022

Evaluating the short- and medium-term impacts of Sure Start

View project
Male-teacher-teaches-teenagers-in-secondary-school-lesson-Autonomous-schools-and-the-teacher-labour-market-Evidence-from-academies-PROJ
New

Education | 2020 - 2021

Autonomous schools and the teacher labour market: Evidence from academies

View project
New

Education | 2020 - 2021

Ethical principles underpinning co-production with young people

View project
New

Education | 2020 - 2020

COVID-19 mitigation measures: education provision and access to special schools

View project
In progress

Education | 2020 - 2020

The impact of COVID-19 on mainstream schools in England

View project
In progress

Education | 2020 - 2021

Post-16 educational trajectories and social inequalities in political engagement

View project
Young-boy-wearing-glasses-watches-laptop-school-lesson-with-notepad-The-effects-COVID-19-on-families-time-use-child-development-PROJ
In progress

Education | 2020 - 2022

The effects of COVID-19 on families’ time-use and child development

View project
Teenage-girl-looks-at-smartphone-next-to-laptop-Growing-up-under-COVID-19-PROJ
In progress

Education | Welfare | 2020 - 2021

Growing up under COVID-19

View project
In progress

Justice | 2020 - 2022

Youth custody: Educational influences and labour market consequences

View project
Teacher in classroom with laughing primary school students, reading a story to them.
New

Education | 2020 - 2022

Gene-environment interplay in early life cognitive development

View project
In progress

Education | 2020 - 2022

Comparisons of cognitive skills and educational attainment across the UK

View project
Maths resit students taking exam
Reported

Education | 2019 - 2020

A new mathematics GCSE curriculum for post-16 resit students

View project
Reported

Education | 2018 - 2018

GCSE and A-level results day project

View project
Reported

Education | 2018 - 2020

Teaching reading: an integrated programme for deaf & hearing children

View project
Reported

Education | 2018 - 2019

Developing a sustainable intervention for disadvantaged children

View project
Reported

Education | 2017 - 2018

Growing up digital

View project
Reported

Education | 2017 - 2020

Educational attainment of children in need & children in care

View project
Reported

Education | 2017 - 2020

Mathematics in Further Education Colleges (MiFEC)

View project
Reported

Education | 2017 - 2020

Economy, Society, and Public Policy: An introduction to economics and quantitative social science

View project
Teacher and young schoolgirl in classroom look at building blocks brain training game together
Reported

Education | 2017 - 2019

Trialling an executive function training intervention for preschoolers

View project
Reported

Education | Welfare | 2017 - 2019

Undermatch in higher education: prevalence, drivers and outcomes

View project
Reported

Education | 2017 - 2018

The effect of retention and turnover on the teaching workforce

View project
Reported

Education | 2017 - 2019

Secondary school choice and academic attainment

View project
Search projects

We improve people’s lives by funding research that informs social policy, primarily in Education, Welfare and Justice. We also fund student programmes that give young people skills and confidence in science and research.

We offer our grant-holders the freedom to frame questions and enable new thinking. Our research must stand up to rigorous academic scrutiny, but we understand that to be successful in effecting change, it also needs to be relevant to people’s experience.

Profile