I have been a teacher for 27 years, a Headteacher for 12 years and, at the age of 51, this much I know about evaluating our 2015 Mathematics GCSE results.
How good were our Mathematics GCSE results this summer? That’s a question I am wrestling with. My evidence-base and the general context are outlined below.
Data 1 – Mathematics GCSE A*-C rate: 2015: 74%-77%-69% (Huntington; Huntington FFT D; national); 2014: 79%-77%-68%; 2013: 84%-80%-70%.
Data 2 – Mathematics GCSE average points score: 2015, 40.8; 2014, 41.3; 2013, 42.3.
Data3 – Mathematics 3 levels of progress: 2015, 74%; 2014, 76%; 2013, 81%.
Data 4 – Mathematics 4 levels of progress: 2015 38%; 2014, 31%; 2013, 34%.
Comparing apples and pears 1: There’s a line between 2014 and 2013 & 2012 because the DfE says you can’t compare the two sets of figures.

Maths RAISE14

Comparing apples and pears 2: OFQUAL analysis tells us that comparing summer 2015 with summer 2014 results is of limited value.

Maths ofqual

Comparing apples and pears 3: The C grade boundary went up from 57 to 65 raw marks on the EdExcel mathematics GCSE papers:
A* grade boundary       155       (2014: 164)
A grade boundary         125                  (133)
B grade boundary           95                    (95)
C grade boundary           65                    (57)
D grade boundary          35                    (28)
E grade boundary          20                     (13)
It’s been a turbulent year 1:  five new mathematics teachers began in September 2014, including a new, externally appointed, Subject Leader. Furthermore, the Assistant Subject Leader left for promotion in January; consequently that left an Assistant Headteacher, Deputy Headteacher, a local retired teacher, two part-time colleagues and yours truly to pick up the vacant teaching for a term and a half.
It’s been a turbulent year 2: We had 8 students who didn’t get to take their final GCSEs, for reasons completely beyond our control, but who are counted in our cohort total.
It’s been a turbulent year 3: The Hannah’s Sweets question caused some consternation.
Asking hard questions 1: Dylan Wiliam’s tweet


and Professor David C. Berliner’s paper Exogenous Variables and Value-Added Assessments: A Fatal Flaw asked some good questions about the cornucopia of variables which affect our students’ performance and the veracity of value-added measures when it comes to judging the quality of teaching.
Asking hard questions, 2: our students are largely White British, one of the poorest performing ethnic groups in the country. And it’s difficult comparing us with what happens in London schools, as Professor Simon Burgess explains in his post Education and the London Effect.
Asking hard questions 3: Schools’ Week asked some good questions about this summer’s mathematics GCSE results without providing too many answers.


What Laura does show is that it’s pretty well a zero sum game, with as many schools’ mathematics GCSE results declining as improving. It begs the question, even if performance has improved, can it be seen to improve or will that be deemed the dreaded grade inflation?
So, how good were our Mathematics GCSE results this summer? What do you think?

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This post has 9 Comments

  1. For certain pupils they will have been fantastic, for many/most they will be as expected, for others they will have been a nightmare. You and your staff will know which are which, and you will also know that this is always the case, although perhaps some years the balance changes a little. Is there anything you can do to evaluate at anything other than the level of individual pupils? Well, you will also know whether you worked under, at, or over the capacity that is sustainable for the length of a 40 year career, and whether you think you made about the best choices you could within the options at your disposal. Sadly the nature of our current system means that people who don’t know your pupils or your maths department, and without the knowledge to answer the questions here, would probably feel that not only could they find a signal in the noise but that there is justification for holding you to account for it, whichever way they thought your results had gone; I think they are mistaken. Best wishes.

  2. I took over a dept in 2010, and had a results dip in 2012. The last three years have improved steadily and all due to a hardworking team of excellent, committed teachers and a supportive leadership team. I am very fortunate that in five years I have lost and gained just one member of staff. A transition year as you describe is tough for everyone, but if you feel you have done your best for each student, then well done. Next year will be better.

  3. Thanks for this John. It will allow my colleagues scope for comparison and also gives other Subject Leaders an investigation trail.
    You did brilliantly!
    I find I am fighting a constant inner battle not to let myself fall into the pit of cynicism. It’s very hard when you see such grade boundary changes.
    I know it’s implied via the FFT target but would it be possible to list KS2 Av pts?

      1. Hi John
        There are some remarkable similarities in data between Huntington’s & Cardinal Allen’s data. I have tabulated it if you are interested. You can email me and I will forward it to you.
        (please don’t feel obliged)

  4. Think that this is a fantastic set of results. In the end it comes down to the attitude to learning of the students themselves as well as the hard work and dedication of staff. Even under such a turbulent year your mathematics department still managed to secure a strong 3&4 levels of progress conversion. Well done.

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