This article continues the discussion started in the post Compulsory GCSE English and Maths in Further Education Part 1
As a practical guide to using the sixth form to help with achievement in Maths, I would begin by arguing that classes need to be set according to previous achievement, so that the teaching is appropriate to all of the students in them. This virtually never happens in sixth forms currently. It is also essential that departments insist on appropriate timetable allocation; more often than not, a re-sit class in the sixth form is given just one or two lessons a week. It should be a minimum of 3, or still better 4, to give the enterprise a reasonable chance of success.
A group of students with a grade D could realistically hope to improve their grade within one year, but students with an E or F need longer. There will be a number of issues, particularly around algebra and fractions, that need to be sorted out carefully beforehand. These students should aim for a re-sit in two years. Students with F or G grades may be better served by being offered an alternative qualification in Maths.
If a Maths department can offer a differentiated course for the sixth form, i.e. a one year and a two year course, then, instead of merely offering a re-run of year 11 or years 10 and 11, they need to start by assessing their students’ precise areas of difficulty. A past exam paper may help with this. It is most likely that teachers will discover issues around algebra.
Rather than merely repeating the entire GCSE syllabus, teachers need to target the areas which are causing students problems, and assess their progress in order to inform further teaching as the class progresses through the year. There is no time for repetitive tasks. Each lesson needs to be planned to address a specific, small issue that students find hard. Every lesson should also include an element that enables the teacher to check on how successful it has been.
Sixth form students in classes they don’t like will probably not be ready to do a lot of homework. The importance of their doing it therefore needs to be re-enforced just as it is in lower classes, including by contacting the head of the school and/or parent if necessary. The hardest part is to get students away from the idea that their Maths course is just some annoying thing that they have to do in addition to their “real” study. This can ONLY be done with high quality, well planned, enthusiastic lessons, and by demonstrating progress to students through regular tests.