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  

New research has been released, reiterating that numeracy is important for everyone, even those who work or study outside of the fields of maths and science. 


Charity puts forward new approach to improving the population’s number skills and calls on government and employers to recognise the scale and urgency of the problem.

Mike Ellicock, CEO of the charity National Numeracy, said of the report published on 20th July 2017, "We strongly agree with Sir Adrian's conclusion that this country does not yet have the right pathways available or the capacity to deliver post-16 mathematics education." 


National Numeracy is excited to support the launch of Norfolk County Council’s new numeracy campaign.

National Numeracy has received funding from Ernest Cook Trust to provide a small number of schools with our highly successful Passport Maths programme.

National Numeracy is delighted to have worked with the Premier League on the Primary Stars project for schools

National Numeracy is responding to issues raised in the basic skills section of the Green Paper and specifically to the problem of poor numeracy among working-age adults.

Leading figures from Cambridge Maths, the exam board OCR, Whitbread, Health Education England and the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development among others gathered at Nationwide Building Society's London headquarters to talk about what numeracy skills secondary school students need and the links between numeracy and workplace productivity. Both sessions sparked some lively debate in the room.

National Numeracy welcomes suggestion that the government is about to drop the policy of forced GCSE resits

National Numeracy is working with MoneySavingExpert, the Money Advice Service and Prospects - the education, employment, skills and care company - to identify which numeracy interventions are most effective at improving people’s numeracy and their attitudes to making financial decisions.

GCSE maths exams are deliberately designed to fail a third of all young people, according to the education charity National Numeracy

Enagage parents by showing them that numbers are a part of everything we do, says trustee Wendy Jones

How to help all children do better at maths: primary and early years report from Fair Education Alliance

National Numeracy Challenge to improve quantitative skills of university students