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Institute of Education Blog


Expert opinion from academics at the UCL Institute of Education


GCSE and A level maths students are missing out on a key learning period. How can we help them?

Blog Editor, IOE Digital15 June 2020

Jennie Golding

For GCSE and A level grades this summer, Ofqual will use a system whereby teachers synthesise all the information available to them to assess students. Centres will be asked to rank their students in each subject entry, to allow for moderation in the light of ‘baseline’ data to allow for differences in the cohort, and a school or college’s past performance.

Most in the education community seem to think this is the fairest that can be achieved in the circumstances. Indeed, the outcomes will arguably be fairer to many students than a one-off exam-only system, although inevitably there will be students who will feel under-rewarded.

But what will these GCSEs actually mean? What will that magic grade 4 in a GCSE Mathematics, for example, represent?

My own ongoing research, begun before the pandemic but still continuing, shows that many schools and colleges, in a range of circumstances, have not attempted to set up any structure for home-working for their year 11 (more…)

Cash may be going out of fashion, but children still need to understand how money works

Blog Editor, IOE Digital1 May 2019

Jennie Golding.

At present I am leading a fascinating set of research studies that take me into mathematics classrooms of the full range of 5 to 18-year-olds. We are asking how the current mathematics curriculum is being experienced by teachers and learners, and how, and in what ways, they are being supported by printed and digital curriculum materials.

The national curriculum says mathematics ‘is essential to everyday life, … and necessary for financial literacy and most forms of employment’. As part of our research, I’ve recently been in two classrooms where the focus of the lesson has been to develop mathematical ideas, and everyday skills, through the use of money. What I observed shocked me into asking fundamental questions about the ways in which we as a twenty-first society educate our young people to be financially capable. (more…)

How can we get more kids to not hate maths?

Blog Editor, IOE Digital25 June 2018

IOE Events.
Thanks to everyone who has contributed to our ‘What if…?’ debates series this year, whether as speakers, attendees, livestream viewers, or colleagues behind the scenes. We couldn’t have done it without you – literally, as they say far too much these days. Watch this space for the 2018/19 programme.
To round off the series for the 17/18 academic year we set our speakers the challenge of: What if… we wanted all kids to love maths? It was quickly established that this might be quite a tall order, and that getting all kids to not hate maths was a laudable enough goal. In exploring how that might be achieved (more…)

Science and mathematics education for 2030: vision or dream?

Blog Editor, IOE Digital1 July 2014

Michael J Reiss
After three years of work and nine commissioned reports, the Royal Society has published its vision for science and mathematics education. It may not push Luis Suarez or Andy Coulson off the front pages but this is a most impressive document that deserves to have a major and long-lasting impact on UK science and mathematics education policy.
The committee that produced the report features a list of intellectual and society heavyweights – if you don’t have a knighthood, a dameship or a Nobel Prize or you aren’t a Fellow of the Royal Society, that may explain why you weren’t invited to sit on it. Behind these titles sits a huge amount of expertise and very considerable passion to improve education.
The Vision aims to raise the general level of mathematical and scientific knowledge and confidence in the population by focusing on changes to how science and mathematics are taught to 5- to 18-year-olds. Some of its recommendations are already taking place, at least to some extent – for instance, that teachers should be trained to engage fully with digital technologies – but others are more contentious.
For example, the report calls for a move away from the current A level system to a Baccalaureate. Such a move would benefit not only science and mathematics but other subjects too. However, I won’t hold my breath to see if it happens – and it will certainly require a change of government. People have been calling for A levels to be replaced by a system with less early specialism for longer than I can remember.
The report also calls for the establishment of new, independent, expert bodies to provide stability in curriculum and assessment and allow teachers space to innovate in their teaching. Following the bonfire of the quangos after the last General Election, the need for such bodies has become clearer than ever. But who is to pay for them? This is not a report overburdened by economic analysis (there isn’t any). Perhaps the Royal Society and other funders need to step in and establish something akin to the successful Nuffield Council on Bioethics, which manages to be independent yet shapes national policy and practice.
Science and mathematics education are in a fortunate position in the UK, compared to many other subjects. Industry clamours for more STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) graduates and technicians and the UK is an acknowledged world leader in STEM research. A decade ago, work by David Sainsbury, Alan Wilson, John Holman, Celia Hoyles and others helped turn around a long-running decline in the numbers of 16-year-olds choosing A levels in mathematics and the physical sciences. Let’s hope this report takes those successes to the next level.