Increasing Participation of Post-16 Students

Henry Stevenson at Weydon School, Farnham has been running a project looking at increasing the participation levels of Post-16 students in Level 3 Maths courses. This Maths Hub project has one broad aim of increasing participation levels of post-16 students in A Level Mathematics, Further Mathematics and other level 3 courses, such as Core Maths.

Participation Rates

The project initially looked into studying habits of students in Surrey Plus region. We found that the percentage of students studying Maths and Further Maths in the Surrey Plus region is in line with the national picture, with a slight increase in uptake between 2013 and 2014 (table below):

Maths Further Maths
Surrey Plus England Surrey Plus England
2013 29% 28% 5% 5%
2014 31% 28% 5% 5%

However, hidden by these numbers is the fact that the number of girls pursuing post 16 maths courses is significantly outweighed by the number of boys; and relatively very few girls take on Further Maths as an A-level option.

Factors influencing progression to A-level mathematics

Having spoken with several post-16 providers, it became clear that there are several factors which influence student progression to A-level mathematics

  • High quality teaching throughout the secondary phase
  • Clearly demonstrated enthusiasm and passion for mathematics
  • Professional planning and managing of the several elements between them that make for effective teaching and learning of mathematics
  • High expectations of pupils’ learning of mathematics
  • Effective monitoring and assessment regimes
  • A positive whole school attitude towards maths as a subject
  • Good interpersonal teacher-student relationships
  • Career events
  • Transition projects and Summer Schools

In summary

One of the repeating themes that comes out of this, is that many Sixth Form colleges do not feel as though they have the Picture1power to influence participation, and 11-16 providers do not see A-level uptake as a concern.  Addressing this gap has been difficult.  However, the research tells us that the two key factors to increasing participation levels are student enrichment, and teacher PD.  It seems simple enough:  If the students have a positive learning experience during KS3 and KS4, and if the quality of teaching is high, the students will want to pursue mathematics at college.  These two features are being addressed through the TeachMeets, Secondary Maths Networks, Enrichment events and CPD that we are facilitating.

Strategies for raising participation

Below are some tried and tested strategies for increasing participation that schools and colleges have found successful:

  • Student enrichment events at KS4 currently available from the Surrey Plus Hub
  • Mentoring links between Year 12 pupils and Year 11 pupils
  • Sixth Form Taster days
  • Prospectus used to promote importance of Maths to parents
  • CPD to develop teaching and learning


All hubs are collaborating closely with locally based colleagues working for both the Further Mathematics Support Programme and the Core Maths Support Programme.

Further Maths Support Programme

FMSP Coordinators work with schools and colleges to support and promote the study of AS/A level Mathematics and Further Mathematics. They also provide training opportunities and support to teachers of AS/A level Mathematics and Further Mathematics and KS4 Higher Tier Mathematics. They are currently supporting teachers in preparation for the impending changes to the A level Mathematics specification.

Core Maths Support Programme

To encourage students to continue with Maths after GCSE, there is an additional option. Core Maths is a new course for those who want to keep up their valuable maths skills but are not planning to take AS or A-level maths. Core Maths aims to increase student confidence in using maths , and to be better equipped for the mathematical demands of other courses, higher education, employment and life. At the end of the two-year course, students will come out with a level 3 qualification– similar to an AS and recognised in UCAS points.  The qualification is assessed by a final examination; some courses also offer the option of submitting a portfolio of coursework. To find out more go to:

Research links

If you are interested in further investigating participation at post 16, the links below are recommended by the NCETM.

Widening Participation Report: A Summary

Factors Influencing Progression to A-level Mathematics

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