Another way to do GCSE resit

TL:DR We’re trialling a 2 year GCSE resit with no exam at the end of the first year. You can see the summary scheme of work here or the full one here

So we’ve all read the Smith report and know that post 16 maths is tough. No doubt on Thursday there’ll be a whole load of stuff about results day. I’ll be at a festival in a field covered in glitter (while frantically texting Sharon about all my students) so I’m writing this now. I’ve always taught GCSE resit classes and love the students to pieces but often feel like I’m pushing them through a broken system that is just not designed to help them. Large scale changes to the education system aren’t likely anytime soon so at the end of last academic year we sat down as a department we sat down to talk about what we would do in an ideal world. Because we have really supportive managers we’re being allowed to try some of it which is exciting. The ideas aren’t revolutionary and I’m definitely not putting this out as an example of what everyone should do. It’s just something we’re trying and Anna Bellamy convinced me it was something other people might be interested in. It’s a long post sorry so maybe come back when you have a cup of tea!

Not having enough time to prepare students was our biggest complaint. It can feel like an awful lot of teaching to the test and not developing understanding when you have to get through GCSE in less than 9 months. We’ve used various stepping stone qualifications (adult numeracy, functional skills, applications of number, use of maths level 2, etc) but there’s always the problems of whether they are recognised (which is getting worse) and then progression. None of the courses prepare students particularly well for GCSE the next year and there’s a whole load of time taken up with teaching exam technique for that style of exam.

This year we’re going to have some of our students studying for GCSE over 2 years. If a student has a 3 and wants a 4 they are going into a standard 1 year GCSE resit class. Below that there will be a few who need the extra support of a small entry class. The rest will be on a 2 year GCSE. There will be no external exam at the end of the first year (see extra info at the bottom though for ones who want to) but there will be plenty of low stakes testing throughout the course and a final assessment to look at progress. This gives us a year to develop skills and confidence.

The course is written from scratch by our team. We sat down with a copy of the new GCSE specification and looked at what we’d consider the most useful building blocks. Topics that got in were the ones that help with other areas of maths but also importantly are useful for life. Lessons so that there is one number skills lesson each week that will focus on developing good methods for calculations and then two applied lessons where the maths is related to real life.

The summary scheme of work at the top shows an outline of what we’re teaching. There’s one to ones every half term to get a chance to talk to students about their progress. We’re finishing earlier than I might have liked as once the GCSE exams are done and btec courses are starting to finish we’d really struggle to keep students there and engaged. The plus side of this though is that the plan is to have good long one to ones with each student to talk about their progress and aspirations.


On a weekly basis there is a slide for each topic on the full scheme of work that has how it fits with the specification and a whole load of other useful things. The idea being that students can access this anytime to see what they will be doing and how it fits in. Underneath there’s information for teachers about resources. The links won’t work externally but don’t worry you aren’t missing much yet! I’ve put links to slides for lessons but they aren’t properly done yet I’ll do that as I go along.

Extra info: Mr Mattock asked about entering at the end of the year. The decision to not have the external exam is because so many of the students have a great deal of aniety around maths and exams so failure is hard on them. That said there is a plan for those who want to do it. Students can enter themselves by paying and this is open to all students. A few do it every year from functional skills courses and because they want to go up a grade. Most don’t do very well because they don’t actually do all the independent revision they think they will, the expection is those who come to workshops or extra classes. The other option that I’ve planned in is for those who are in the 2 year course but show themselves to be hardworking and want to have a shot at GCSE this year. In this case they havethe option to complete an online course with key topics not covered and come to a workshop each week to do past papers. If they do this we will pay for them to be entered.

I would love to hear thought from other GCSE resit teachers. What topics would you choose? How would you structure the course? Do you have another good idea?