Case study: Cardinal Newman College

How this sixth form college is increasing participation in level 3 maths and teaching Core Maths with a mixed-subject team.

  • A significant increase in students studying level 3 maths following the introduction of Core Maths
  • Core Maths taught by a mixed-subject team
  • Sustained recruitment to AS/A level Mathematics and Further Mathematics

Cardinal Newman College is a 16-18 sixth form college located in Preston, Lancashire. Approximately 3500 students attend the College. It is a Lead School for the new Abacus NW Maths Hub, in partnership with Our Lady's Catholic High School, Preston. The purpose of the hub is to help schools and colleges lead improvement in maths education in central Lancashire.

The College offers a wide range of A level subjects, alongside vocational qualifications. These options include well-established A levels in Mathematics, Further Mathematics and Statistics, and new provision for Core Maths.

Cardinal Newman College 2

Key successes for the maths team have been the sustained recruitment to level 3 maths courses at A level, and the introduction of Core Maths provision. In 2017-18 the College’s total entry for level 3 maths was 996, in 2018-19 it rose to 1218.

The numbers of students studying A level Mathematics, Further Mathematics and Statistics courses at the College have been consistent over recent years. Core Maths was introduced in 2018-19 with 199 students taking the course. This resulted in a significant increase in the number of students studying level 3 maths and as a result the College received £186,000 additional funding in the 16-19 allocation for 2019-20 through the Advanced Maths Premium.

The sixth form enrolment team target students taking Business, Geography, Psychology or Science, encouraging them to take Core Maths. They advocate the benefit of the course in supporting these other subjects and complementing the maths incorporated in them. This has increased the number of students participating in a level 3 maths course who would not have done so in previous years. The College believes that one reason behind the successful recruitment to Core Maths has been the involvement of teachers of Business, Geography and Science. These teachers have responsibilities, alongside maths specialists, for teaching the Core Maths course. The AMSP has provided professional development for teachers at the College to help introduce and develop the teaching of Core Maths.

Core Maths is usually studied in one year (usually Year 12) and is taught in two 70-minute lessons per week, supplemented by ‘study support’. The entry requirement is GCSE Mathematics grade 5. Students are split into three strands depending on their programme of study – Social Sciences, Business & ICT or Science. In this way, the Core Maths course supports their study in other subjects, and their other subjects also support learning in Core Maths. The fact that students can complete the course in one year, together with the support it offers for their other subjects, are the major reasons the College has attracted so many students to take Core Maths (approximately 200 in 2018-19, and a similar number in 2019-20).  

More than half the number of students taking Core Maths in 2018-19 were female. As a result of introducing Core Maths, the overall proportion of students studying level 3 maths who were female increased.

Further Mathematics students are taught A level Mathematics in classes with single A level Mathematics students and have separate classes for Further Mathematics content. This helps the single A level Mathematics students to ‘raise their game’. In most cases, Further Mathematics is taken as part of a four A level subject programme and students take AS Further Mathematics at the end of Year 12. Some Year 12 students then decide not to continue with Further Mathematics in Year 13, but they have achieved an AS qualification. A level Mathematics students have the option to study AS Further Mathematics in Year 13.

There is a consistency of approach to maths teaching across the department. All students follow the same scheme of work and complete the same assessments at the same time. There is a common workbook that is supplemented with teachers’ own resources. Each class will typically be taught by one teacher during the year; this helps teachers to build up a relationship with their students and aids accountability.

Typically, a full-time teacher teaches four classes. They have no other responsibilities, such as being a personal tutor. Each teacher has time built into their timetable for student curriculum support activities such as one-to-ones, small group work, revision sessions, etc. Lessons start at 9:20 and finish at 3:40, so many subjects organise their curriculum support to take place before the start of the day or at the end of the day.

The College engages with the AMSP, working closing with the local Area Coordinator. Students and teachers have attended AMSP Year 12 and Year 13 Problem Solving Conferences, and maths A level students have received support in preparing for university mathematics entrance tests through the AMSP Problem Solving Matters courses.

Level 3 maths courses offered

Year Courses Teaching time per week GCSE grade requirements
12 A level Mathematics 4 hours 40 min GCSE Mathematics grade 6 or above
12 A level Further Mathematics 4 hours 40 min GCSE Mathematics grade 7 or above
12 A level Statistics 4 hours 40 min GCSE Mathematics grade 5 or above and GCSE English grade 5 or above
12 Core Maths 2 hours 20 min GCSE Mathematics grade 5 or above
13 A level Mathematics 4 hours 40 min  
13 A level Further Mathematics 4 hours 40 min  
13 A level Statistics 4 hours 40 min  

Curriculum Structure

Students following an A level route typically take three A level subjects over two years. Students studying A level Further Mathematics are encouraged to take four A level subjects.

Core Maths is run as a one-year course. At the end of Year 12 if individual students are not ready for the exam they can wait and take the exam at the end of Year 13.

Further Mathematics students sit the AS Further Mathematics examination at the end of Year 12. Some students then stop with an AS qualification and the others continue into Year 13 for the full A level.

A levels are taught in four 70 min lessons per week (4 hours 40 min per week). There are no double lessons (i.e. two 70 min lessons in a row).

Paul Vaughan Cardinal Newman College

“It was the long held belief that non A level maths students studying a subject with a mathematical element were at a disadvantage. Core Maths serves these students well and it gives them a L3 maths qualification which will always have value.”

Paul Vaughan
Deputy Principal, Cardinal Newman College

More advice

The following resources and pages offer further advice about increasing participation in level 3 maths and teaching Core Maths:

Advanced Maths Options leaflet
Advanced Maths Options leaflet
Core Maths factsheet
Core Maths factsheet
Further Mathematics factsheet
Further Mathematics factsheet
Supporting your students’ transition to advanced maths page
Supporting your students’ transition to advanced maths page
Strategies for offering Core Maths page
Strategies for offering Core Maths page

This case study was created in partnership by:

NCETM
Maths Hubs
AMSP