Fundamental flaws in GCSE maths need addressing

Fundamental flaws in GCSE maths need addressing

National Numeracy congratulates all students getting their GCSE results this week, but is concerned that the system is still failing too many.

Not only does the maths exam not put sufficient emphasis on the practical skills that everyone needs in everyday life, but - because it is largely norm-referenced - it is guaranteed to ‘fail’ the one third of young people who won’t reach the required Grade 4, or C. This is the standard generally recognised by employers and required for access to more advanced education.  

Last month National Numeracy launched an alternative benchmark, the Essentials of Numeracy - an everyday maths equivalent of the driving test - which sets out the essential practical maths that everyone needs for adult life and the workplace. Unlike GCSE, this would be something that all young people would be expected to achieve as part of their maths education and that could be embedded within the existing curriculum and exam pathway. 

National Numeracy chief executive, Mike Ellicock, said: “If we are to prosper as a country, we need everyone to have the confidence and competence to use numbers and data to make good decisions. Unfortunately the present GCSE system is abjectly failing to deliver these essentials of numeracy for all and something else is needed. It is crucial we offer everyone - including the bottom third of each year group - an opportunity to master the essentials of numeracy needed at work and home, whatever they go on to do after GCSE. National Numeracy's Essentials of Numeracy shows exactly what teenagers and adults really need.” 


Read our report: The Essentials of Numeracy: a new approach to making the UK numerate