Case study: The Minster School

How this school has increased uptake and achieved a good gender balance in level 3 maths

  • Uptake of level 3 maths has increased significantly in last 3 years
  • Maintained good gender balance across level 3 maths courses

The Minster School is a 7-18 Church of England academy located in Southwell, Nottinghamshire. Approximately 1,600 students attend the school, with 400 students in the sixth form. It is the Lead School for the East Midlands East Maths Hubs. It is also a National Teaching School and a National Support School.

The school offers a wide range of A level subjects, including A level Mathematics and A level Further Mathematics. The school was an early adopter for Core Maths and has a well-established Core Maths provision.

Participation in level 3 maths courses has been consistently good in recent years. There was a drop in the number of Year 13 students taking A level Mathematics and A level Further Mathematics in 2018-19, but uptake in these subjects increased significantly in September 2019, from 37 to 76 for A level Mathematics, and from 6 to 19 for A level Further Mathematics. The total number of Year 13 students studying a level 3 maths qualification has increased by 50% in the last three years from 83 students in 2016-17 to 125 students in 2019-20. The proportion of level 3 maths students in Year 13 who are female is also well above the national average, particularly for A level Further Mathematics and Core Maths.

Year 13 students Core Maths A level Mathematics A level Further Mathematics
  Male Female Male Female Male Female
2019-20 45%* 55%* 62% 38% 70% 30%
2018-19 54% 46% 62% 38% 50% 50%
2017-18 32% 68% 53% 47% 65% 35%
2016-17 40% 60% 47% 53% 60% 40%

*Combined Y12 and Y13 entry for 2019-20

The sustained level of recruitment to the level 3 maths courses is a result of several of factors.

Helen McGregor, Curriculum Team Leader for Mathematics, and her team are passionate in promoting level 3 maths so that students develop the skills and confidence to follow their ambitions and desired career pathway.

The guidance students are given when they are making their sixth form option choices during Year 11 and the support and encouragement provided by the maths teachers helps to build student confidence. This is especially important for girls, many of whom may be uncertain whether they can achieve a level 3 maths qualification. Student voice feedback has shown that girls feel supported by the department and that the maths teachers are very approachable, which has helped build girls’ confidence. This has contributed to the strong uptake by girls.

The sixth form curriculum is designed so that students have the option of studying Core Maths or the Extended Project Qualification (EPQ) within an enrichment block, in addition to their A level courses. The sixth form enrolment team advocates the benefits of taking Core Maths in supporting and complementing the maths within other A level courses, such as Economics, Business Studies, Biology, Geography and Psychology. The consistent levels of participation in all level 3 maths courses is a result of this long-term engagement with students in Key Stage 4 through to GCSE results day.

The school has benefited from a stable and experienced maths team. Everyone teaches maths up to A level. There is a commitment to improving the quality of teaching in the maths department. All teachers benefit from a range of on-going development opportunities as part of an embedded internal programme, and also through the Maths Hub and the AMSP. NQTs are well supported, with a clear progression into teaching level 3 maths. As the Lead School for the East Midlands East Maths Hub, many of the staff are involved in Maths Hubs Work Groups, such as Mathematical Thinking for GCSE, Secondary Teaching for Mastery, and Developing Working Partnerships with ITT providers. Maths staff have taken part in various AMSP professional development courses.

Level 3 maths courses offered

Year Courses Teaching time per week GCSE grade requirements
12 A level Mathematics 4 hours GCSE Mathematics grade 6 or above
12 A level Further Mathematics 4 hours GCSE Mathematics grade 6 or above
12 Core Maths 2 hours GCSE Mathematics grade 5 or above
13 A level Mathematics 4 hours  
13 A level Further Mathematics 4 hours  
13 A level Statistics 1.5 hours Since September 2019, this course is being delivered in one year so there is no course for Year 13 students.

Curriculum Structure

Students following an A level route typically take three A levels during Year 12 and 13. Further Mathematics can be taken as a fourth A level by some students.

Core Maths has been taught as a two-year course, but since September 2019 this course is being delivered in one year in Year 12, with students choosing between Core Maths and the EPQ as part of the Year 12 enrichment programme. Students can then concentrate on their three A level subjects in Year 13.

More advice

The following resources and pages offer further advice about increasing participation in level 3 maths and maintaining a good gender balance:

Advanced Maths Options leaflet
Advanced Maths Options leaflet
Core Maths factsheet
Core Maths factsheet
Further Mathematics factsheet
Further Mathematics factsheet
Find ways to encourage girls
Find ways to encourage girls
FMSP Girls in Maths
Girls' participation in maths leaflet produced by the FMSP

This case study was created in partnership by:

NCETM
Maths Hubs
AMSP