Robust Maths practice helps students master the GCSE (9-1) curriculum

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Name The Lenham School    
Type Comprehensive School    
Location Lenham, Kent    
Cohort GCSE Maths cohort size: 98 Cohort EAL: 0% Cohort SEN: 27% 


The Lenham School is a mixed secondary and has been part of the Pearson maths collaborative hub since May 2017. With the arrival of the new GCSE (9-1) Maths curriculum, the school had to promptly identify key problem areas in order to successfully deliver the GCSE (9-1) Maths curriculum.

Nicola Smith - The Lenham School

Nicola Smith, Head of Faculty (Maths and Business) talks about the school’s approach and how robust systems, and a lot of hard work from staff and students, helped embed Maths throughout the school.

There were high expectations for teachers and students

The introduction of the GCSE (9-1) curriculum presented us with two primary challenges. Firstly, how to predict or second-guess the presentation of the problem-solving questions and how to embed mathematics in longer mark questions. We identified from the outset that practice, monitoring progress and designing effective interventions would be integral to our success.

Steps to help master the new GCSE (9-1) curriculum

We knew practice was key so we embedded exam practice into all our lessons by using starters and plenaries. We always included sample exam questions from support material available in the Mathematics Emporium. We also made sure that one lesson each week focused solely on problem-solving by completing the Bronze, Silver and Gold papers also provided by Edexcel in the Emporium.

For KS3 we started to follow the three-year GCSE scheme of work from Year 7 so students would start to have maximum exposure to the level of mathematics expected of them as early as possible. We also built in aspects of the functional skills course and the Entry Level Certificate in order to support the less able students.

A clear focus on practice helped students master topics

The main thing that worked for Year 11 was exam practice in short but regular bursts. We embedded exam question practice within the lessons and problem-solving papers in their weekly schemes of work. We carried out some gap analysis from the mock exams and each morning we held targeted intervention sessions for small groups of students. By taking this approach, pupils were receiving additional support purely on the topics they were not securing in mock situations.

More of our Year 10 students are currently studying the higher tier to raise attainment and aspirations. We only entered 25% of the cohort previously so this should help us see a good set of results in the coming years.

A broad set of resources helped prepare our students for exams

We used all of the sample assessment materials provided by the Emporium alongside Pearson textbooks and ActiveLearn. Finally, the students completed intervention tasks using the Pearson revision guides and workbooks, plus the revision cards were a great success in our mini-revision lessons.

For major areas such as problem-solving we gave the pupils maximum exposure to all the sample materials provided by the Emporium and Edexcel. We used the end of unit problem-solving tasks in the textbooks when delivering content, and then all students completed all Bronze, Silver and Gold papers over the course of the final six months to build their exam techniques.

We thought the support we received from Edexcel was very good especially the variety of sample of assessment materials. The students were requesting more and more papers towards the end of the revision period as we had exhausted all of the materials in lessons. It would be good to have even more revision papers and the students were very keen to have online Sample Assessment Papers (SAMs) via Pearson ActiveLearn.

Rigid exam preparation helped students know what to expect

There were two mock exam sessions in November and March – we used sample assessment materials from Edexcel to create our own grade boundaries to try to assess current working grades. We entered the top 25% of the cohort for the Higher tier following the first mock exam session in November. We made the necessary final adjustments to individuals following the results of the March mocks regarding any Higher tier students who needed to move to the Foundation tier. The final papers were challenging as expected but it was good to see that the problem-solving aspects were structured in ways that we had prepared for from the SAMs.

The outcome – hard work and determination brings pleasing results

Our final results were pleasing, and in some cases; students performed better than expected. Owing to the rigid processes we put in place, our assessments proved that we knew our students and we were able to make very accurate predictions of their final grades.

Exam success from this 9-1 round came from a lot of hard work from the pupils, first and foremost, but also from great teachers. The two key factors for us were; firstly, embedding the exam practice into every lesson and secondly; mock exams were the driving force of gap analysis and intervention groups that helped close gaps in subject knowledge. Our assessments proved that we knew our students and we were able to make very accurate predictions of their final grades.

Going forward we will begin exam practice a few months earlier than last year to allow the exposure to be more spread and less intense. We are also making intervention plans that target students by grade initially rather than by topic.