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GCSE Further Maths - current status?

(21 Posts)
PiqueABoo Sun 26-Mar-17 19:46:45

This topic turns up here every so often. If it has just been discussed to death somewhere, then please point me to that.

Maths-whizzy Y9 DD's school used to have ~20% of their children taking and passing the FM GCSE according to last summer's results, but the grapevine says they have quietly abandoned it. Which is already irritating for lack of courtesy i.e. how difficult is it to write and put a little explanation about this change somewhere?

I was looking forward to FM since DD started at the school and saw it as something that might keep her a bit more occupied in KS4. Plus it has calculus and other bits to help with the apparent jump from GCSE to A-level.

We have a little parents' evening appointment later in the week and DD has given me strict orders to be gentle with an apparently quite sensitive/timid teacher who she likes. I'll try to oblige, but I've heard the justification for dropping FM is because they reckon some children have been doing worse in normal Maths because they were too focused on Further Maths. I'm hoping that's a flaw in the relevant grapevine, because a reference to the old Maths GCSE is sufficiently different from a less irritating take around the new GCSE being more difficult and needing the time previously used to cover FM topics etc.

Has anyone else seen FM get dropped by their school? If so what are they saying?

TheSecondOfHerName Sun 26-Mar-17 21:00:30

In my sons' school, a certain number of pupils each year (2-3 sets) used to sit Maths GCSE at the end of Y10 and then the Further Maths qualification at the end of Y11. More than 50% of students each year went on to study Maths A-level and most of the students in sets 1 & 2 also went on to study Further Maths A-level.

With the changes to the Maths GCSE, they now plan for every pupil to sit Maths GCSE at the end of Y11. The current plan for DS2 (Y10) is that his set and the set below might also take the Level 2 Further Maths at the same time. I say 'current plan' because they don't yet know how the current Y11 will perform in the new GCSE exam.

DS2 is in the top half of set 1; historically in previous years those students have gone on get very good grades for Maths & FM at A-level. However, with the new Maths GCSE, I think things are more uncertain. I'll be interested to find out in September how the year group above him do.

PiqueABoo Sun 26-Mar-17 22:35:54

There are caveats around intake etc., but I think your school might be the better one if they 'might' end up where DD's school was last year, but with the new GCSE in place of the old one. But ignoring that we have the same new GCSE needs more time message.

Pragmatically I don't care about another qualification, it's mostly about whether DD is doing something useful with her time in the subject because she seems to be converging on the idea of taking double maths and physics at A-level.

TheSecondOfHerName Sun 26-Mar-17 22:51:08

she seems to be converging on the idea of taking double maths and physics at A-level

Same with DS2. He does occasional extra-curricular Maths activities for fun; could your DD do something like that to maintain her enthusiasm? E.g. UKMT intermediate maths challenge, STEM fairs, a FMSP competition for which he used the prize (£100 book token) to buy books by Matt Parker, Ian Stewart etc.

KikiDeliversCakes Sun 26-Mar-17 22:56:26

We just had out GCSE options evening for our yr 9 DD. We were told that Further Maths GCSE will no longer be available for our year group, maybe because the new Marhs GCSE is supposed to be so much harder?

noblegiraffe Mon 27-Mar-17 07:46:41

My school has dropped Further Maths for set 2 and while set 1 will be taking it this year, we will be seeing how the results go. If results for the new GCSE are lower than expected then we might drop it for top set too.

Kids not doing as well as they might on the GCSE because of Further Maths sounds plausible; although this shouldn't be an issue for the best students A* students it could certainly affect A students. The extra work needed for the new GCSE is also not insignificant. With so many unknowns attached to the new GCSE, I think it's fair for a school to drop the further maths until more is known.

PiqueABoo Mon 27-Mar-17 12:31:25

could your DD do something like that to maintain her enthusiasm? E.g. UKMT intermediate maths challenge,

Unusually for MN and this scenario, enthusiasm is not a big problem. She likes the lessons regardless of the topic/difficulty, in part because she sits with a like-minded boy-equivalent in terms of ability and more introverted character. When they're not doing that maths synergy thing, they just quietly chat away their spare time. This is an eight-form entry school with a parallel set structure so I sometimes thank the gods that we don’t have two quite isolated and bored children in separate top set classes.

That pair are also the Y9 half of the UKMT team (I've recently learnt that Team Challenge = two Y8 & two Y9 pupils). The school’s 'most able' policy is full of impressive commitments and promises, but this the first time something like that has actually happened. It’s tiny in terms of DD's entire time at the school, but a little something is better than nothing and teacher did spend successive weeks of after-school time on this with a bunch of contenders so I intend to thank them for that.

Perhaps a little appreciation might tilt the balance for them doing it again for the next set of kids in line, but sadly there was little interest this time e.g. no children from the other Y9 top set turned up and they were collectively invited the same as DD’s. That can’t be explained away by “Why bother? [Whoever] is better and they’ll pick them” because they don’t know how they measure up against children in DD’s class.

Kids not doing as well as they might on the GCSE because of Further Maths sounds plausible;

Yes, but from my perspective I don’t know whether they were being too optimistic a little too far down the curve, or weren’t doing a very good job in old GCSE world. What does a 'good job' look like for this kind of intake in national terms? I can see the reason for caution around new GCSE, but at heart this is my usual issue around DD’s potential being sacrificed for the greater good. I know that nothing I say will change that decision, but feel I should express some regret rather than have school-side thinking no one cares. Although given what I just said above, no one cares might not be too far off the mark.

Maybe I’ll manage to cut a deal e.g. I won’t moan at them too much about Further Maths, if they promise to keep DD and like-minded friend together and get better at organising some decent time fillers for them (UKMT questions to play with or something).

OddBoots Mon 27-Mar-17 12:48:03

I am sure the school will have their own ideas but if you are going to discuss options with them anyway maybe have a look at the Edexcel Level 3 Algebra qualification. My ds loves maths so he taught himself (he did some of it in maths at school when he had finished his set work and some at home) using the course materials and a workbook you can buy from Amazon. The school entered him for the exam and paid the entry.

It is pass or fail so if he had failed he wouldn't have had to mention it on his UCAS form (he easily passed but this was good to have in mind) but when passed it is valued enough to be worth a few UCAS points. The main positive was that it made his transition to Maths, FM, Physics (and Computer Science) at A Level much smoother.

PiqueABoo Mon 27-Mar-17 15:40:52

maybe have a look at the Edexcel Level 3 Algebra qualification

I will take a look because algebra as been on my mind since a primary teacher grabbed some extension puzzle problem off the net and DD spent a week of tea-times brute-forcing with arithmetic for lack of the algebra that would have made that solution much easier.

We also have a 60 year-old edition of Elementary Algebra [for schools] on the bookshelves and it would be good to see that dusted down and used. 130 years since that was originally written and the only really obvious archaic bits in there are "shew that" and some wordier questions with imperial measurements.

But anything like this would have to involve using some of spare maths lesson time which, for me at least, feels like a quite delicate issue to discuss with school-side. I don't want DD to add anything too significant to her home-life which has enough in in now and will get whatever extras the local KS4 starts to deliver from September.

TheFrendo Mon 27-Mar-17 15:46:08


I have a copy of Hall & Knight's Elementary Algebra from 1897 which I use for examples. Has lovely copperplate notes in too.

PiqueABoo Mon 27-Mar-17 16:02:48

I'm a bit jealous because our much later edition is a quite utilitarian and has no copper-plate notes.

swingofthings Mon 27-Mar-17 19:06:09

Just the same here. DD took it last year, enjoyed it and got an A*. They had a reasonable number of pupils taking it. It was offered to all the kids taking triple science and assumed it would continue. DD is taking it as an A level in addition to Maths and doing very well.

However, DS has just had to make his choices and it would seem that this will not be offered as an additional GCSE any longer. Very disappointed as DS excels in maths like his sister and is already considering studying it at uni.

PiqueABoo Tue 28-Mar-17 19:48:36

Hmm.. caught in the middle now is obviously worst, but having children on either side of it must be erm.. interesting.

Pragmatically we are getting more maths in GCSE Maths not just losing Further Maths, but I suspect on balance we'll lose a bit because of the fear and uncertainty i.e. they're erring on the side of caution. Probably good for children a little further down the curve because they'll get more of what they need, but higher up may well get more of what they don't need.

Y10Parent Tue 28-Mar-17 21:28:46

DD is in Y10 and is also a whizz mathematician.

We were told at parents' evening before Xmas that there was no longer a FM exam available. However, we are now told that FM is available for DDs year but are under the impression it is the last year it can be taken.

Hia3 Tue 28-Mar-17 21:55:36

I think you will find many schools won't do further maths - with the Maths Gcse 1-9 - as it has an extra 1/3 to learn ( brother Head of secondary maths) 50% of the paper is equivalent to A and above level- 7-9. 9 is a new grading for very gifted mathematicians - equivalent A**.
So very able students will certainly be stretched to achieve 9- and well prepared for A level studies.

PiqueABoo Wed 29-Mar-17 00:03:58

I think you will find many schools won't do further maths

You're likely right and perhaps we might get to a point where the exam board drops (L2) FM because of lack of demand.

I know that DD's maths-whizzy nature puts me in a quite luxurious position relative to the majority and I really should be relaxing, but the other side of that coin is that I don't want to see their 'gift' go to waste so I struggle to relax about it.

Time will tell re. the stretch, but in the short-term this little thread has helped dissipate much of my tetchiness around this, so thanks for everyone's comments.

noblegiraffe Wed 29-Mar-17 00:22:24

I think if you'd seen the results of the Edexcel November mocks you'd be a bit less worried about stretch. No one got full marks out of the 93,000-odd scores submitted, and only a minuscule number got over 200/240, so there's plenty of room at the top end.

PiqueABoo Wed 29-Mar-17 13:54:13

Yes, but there is stretch in exams and stretch in lessons. They might correlate very well, but another possibility is that if the 'last' 15% of the exam looks a bit unobtainable they will decide ignore it and do more with the 85%.

That's pure conjecture and I haven't got a clue how it will play out.

noblegiraffe Wed 29-Mar-17 16:04:12

This is a school that ran Further Maths. The teachers will be aware of the need to stretch the higher ability students and be used to having the resources to do so. There are loads of really hard resources out there aimed at the 'grade 9s' so it should be fine.

swingofthings Wed 29-Mar-17 18:17:45

So very able students will certainly be stretched to achieve 9- and well prepared for A level studies.
This is fine as long as indeed, the most able kids are being stretched to that level. The school DD went to and DS now attends is not a bad school and will encourage the most able to a certain point. DD teachers would report that she was excelling and meeting her targets with expected As, but when asked about her meeting her aspiration target of A*, I would get a blank look and the tone of the response would indicate that I should be grateful that she working at an A.

At least with FM, she was naturally stretched. I can imagine the school being delighted with more able kids reaching level 7 and not bothered trying to stretch them to see if they could attempt to reach a level 8.

I found as a whole that teachers of lower grade to show more enthusiasm at stretching the most able pupils whilst the GCSE teachers seem much more focused at ensuring that as many as possible got a C pass. Not sure if the new system might make a different in that aspect though.

swingofthings Wed 29-Mar-17 18:18:23

respect, not aspect smile

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