The 5Rs approach to GCSE Maths resits

This project and its evaluation were affected by the partial school closures and changes to GCSE assessments caused by the Covid-19 pandemic in 2020. As a result, some of the impact measurement collection has not been possible and the evaluation will not be completed as originally intended.

‘The 5Rs - a revision year approach to GCSE Maths resits’ is a manualised intervention which aims to support students re-sitting their GCSEs to improve their attainment. It consists of both a set lesson structure and lesson content, and three short initial diagnostic tests, which are used to determine weaknesses in nine underpinning mathematical skills.

The programme content is built on the 40 most common topics in GCSE exams, and common exam pitfalls have been mapped and built into the scheme of work. The programme also introduces students to alternative methods (that they would not have encountered at school) for undertaking common but tricky calculations, such as multiplying numbers and adding fractions.

Teachers receive an initial day’s training which outlines the method and the theory behind the approach and are expected to begin the lessons straightaway. This is followed by two catch-up days in each of the following terms. Delivery teams are supported through a secure website which hosts the Scheme of Work, lesson plans, full resources and a video collection of alternative methods as well as support through online contact forms.

Why are we funding it?

The EEF is working with J.P. Morgan to improve the evidence about the best ways to improve English and Maths outcomes for disadvantaged learners re-sitting GCSE exams.

Pass rates for students re-sitting GCSE Maths are extremely low, and the post-16 sector is in need of more and better evidence about what works for these students. This proposal sits within the ‘EEF’s Post-16’ theme and would draw on the joint funding allocated for this purposes, co-funded with J.P. Morgan. It complements other projects being undertaken, which focus on improving maths teachers’ and pupils’ conceptual understanding or address wider motivation issues through regular texts.

The programme is well manualised and easily implemented, with positive indications from the case study schools and colleges which have used it to date. It is particularly timely given the 2018 GCSE pass rate for students re-sitting the Maths exam, which dropped from 30% to 22% nationally. 

How are we evaluating it?

York Trials Unit has been selected as the independent evaluator for this programme. This will be a two-armed randomised control trial, at efficacy stage. It will be targeted at students re-taking GCSE Maths at sixth form colleges, school sixth forms or further education colleges, including private providers meeting certain criteria, with 40 settings in the intervention and 40 in the control group. The primary outcome will be GCSE Maths attainment, using standardised GCSE raw scores as well as GCSE pass rates. The trial will also measure impact on student attitudes towards math as a secondary outcome.

When will the evaluation report be due?

The evaluation report will be published in Summer 2021.