Meet Anthony Shaw
“Many students (and adults) ask “why do I need to know this?” about a variety of topics in maths. You cannot ask that in Core Maths. I think it’s the most valuable maths qualification that any school can offer and genuinely gives students skills for life.“Anthony Shaw
The Gryphon School
About The Gryphon School
The Gryphon School is a Church of England secondary school with academy status for 11-18 year-olds in Sherborne, Dorset. The school has approximately 1600 pupils in total, including a large sixth form of 450. Within the sixth form, alongside A level Mathematics, students can study A level Further Mathematics and, since 2017, Core Maths.
What they’re doing in relation to Core Maths
Many students (and adults) ask “why do I need to know this?” about a variety of topics in maths. You cannot ask that in Core Maths. I think it’s the most valuable maths qualification that any school can offer and genuinely gives students skills for life.
We’ve chosen to use the OCR (MEI) Core Maths B option at our school. We selected this particular option because our primary reason for offering Core Maths is to support students who need some further mathematical and statistical knowledge for their other studies at Level 3. We have a lot of students studying social sciences at The Gryphon School and OCR B lets us spend time developing a deep understanding of the statistical tests they need in these subjects. We also really like the structure of the OCR course and the breadth that the quantitative reasoning gives students.
Core Maths is taught over one year. We decided to do this because we like students to see this as a boost to their studies, and the feedback that we got from students implied that doing the exams in Year 12 makes it more attractive as it gives them the skills to excel in Year 13. Doing a one-year course also makes it open to Year 13 students who decide that it would benefit them.
Students get three hours of contact time a week and Core Maths is in a block, just like our other A levels. In the past, it had 9 hours a fortnight as our A levels have. We chose to reduce this after some feedback from staff and students saying that some Core Maths lessons, while fun, felt less ‘academic’ and, as I’ve said, many of our students study Core Maths to support their other A levels.
Blocking has its pros and cons. Having it as an ‘option’ when students apply for sixth form gives Core Maths a higher profile and greater prestige than it might have as an ‘enrichment’ activity, but it does put some students off as they fear the workload of studying a fourth subject. On balance, I think we’ve got it right as we have enough lessons to really embrace the interesting, meandering nature of Core Maths, as well as understanding why most students study it. However, I’m always listening and would love someone to show me a model that they think works better!
Recruitment and uptake
I have a large, strong team of teachers at The Gryphon School and, throughout the lower school, we talk to students about how useful some aspects of the maths they study is. We’ve built financial maths, statistical literacy, and real-life estimation tasks into our curriculum, so that our students are exposed to the big ideas in Core Maths early on. Distinctly Average is a favourite game!
In recent years, we’ve worked more closely with other subjects. Our social sciences department and our geography teachers speak to all of their prospective students during open evenings and induction days to strongly suggest that students study Core Maths alongside their subjects. We’ve consistently had around 20 students studying Core Maths each year in Year 12, and a handful of Year 13s. We’re always working to grow this number.
The students who study Core Maths at The Gryphon School genuinely enjoy it and find it useful. When I asked some of this year’s cohort what they felt about Core Maths, I had the following responses:
- “It’s actual, real-life maths! We learn things that are going to be properly useful!”
- “When we looked at Spearman’s in biology, we’d already done it in maths. It made so much more sense and I was even able to help my friends to understand what was going on!”
- “I want to study psychology at university, and I think that having done Core Maths will make it much more accessible. I was always a bit nervous about maths before doing this course!”
- “I’ve always enjoyed maths but didn’t want to do A level Mathematics. Core Maths has given me the chance to keep doing maths and I now love it even more!”
Previous Core Maths students have gone on to study a variety of subjects at university or moved into work. Each time we see past students, they tell us how they’ve used something from Core Maths. One past student said, “I had to show my boss how to use Excel last week! Thanks for teaching me it!”