Advisory Committee on Mathematics Education (ACME)

ACME Welcomes Ofqual Approval of Pair of Mathematics GCSEs

22 April 2009

The Advisory Committee on Mathematics Education (ACME) welcomes the decision by the independent regulator Ofqual to approve the criteria for a pair of linked mathematics GCSEs. This represents the negotiation of a major hurdle on the road to full introduction, and means that piloting of the pair can now proceed from 2010.

The decision follows six months of intensive work by ACME in close collaboration with the Qualifications and Curriculum Authority (QCA) and awarding bodies to develop a pair of GCSEs which would fulfil the outstanding recommendation of Professor Adrian Smith's 2004 report 'Making Mathematics Count'. This report argued strongly for a double award in mathematics at GCSE level since the amount of effort required to obtain a single GCSE in mathematics was comparable to that for achieving two awards in English or Science.

Commenting on the announcement, Chair of ACME Professor Dame Julia Higgins FRS said:
"Creating a pair of GCSEs in mathematics will address one of the totemic issues identified in Smith's report. As a result of Ofqual's decision, we move a step closer to a system that will better equip students with the mathematical skills they require to flourish in higher education and the workplace. Furthermore, students studying for both GCSEs ought to have a better appreciation of mathematics both in itself and in relation to its importance in other disciplines and in analyzing problems related to the real world".

The two GCSEs, the basis of which was devised by committee members with national reputations for curriculum development, are designed to more adequately reward students for the level of difficulty and the workload compared to others subjects, and to allow for a greater focus on mathematics in context, with a deeper understanding of processes and applications than the current single GCSE allows. 

Dame Higgins added:
"We look forward to working with QCA and other key partners to ensure the piloting process is successful, and in producing a pair of mathematics GCSEs which will equip future generations for the challenges of the future".


1. The Advisory Committee on Mathematics Education (ACME) is an independent committee, based at the Royal Society and operating under its auspices, which acts as a single voice for the mathematical community on mathematics education issues, seeking to improve the quality of such education in schools and colleges. It advises Government on issues such as the curriculum, assessment and the supply and training of mathematics teachers. ACME was established by the Joint Mathematical Council of the UK and the Royal Society, with the explicit support of all major mathematics organisations, and is funded by the Gatsby Charitable Foundation. The current chair is Professor Dame Julia Higgins FRS FREng.

2. The pair of GCSEs was drawn up by a sub-group of ACME members working closely with colleagues in QCA. The pair of GCSES are entitled "Applications in Mathematics" (which focuses more on the application of mathematics in a wide range of contextualized contexts) and "Methods in Mathematics" (which focuses more on rigour and the coherent nature of mathematics). The pair is designed to emphasise the process skills developed in applying mathematics to realistic problems in one of the pair, and, in the other, to emphasise process skills required to develop logical reasoning, fluency in symbolization and an understanding of proof in mathematics.

3. Each GCSE will be a qualification in its own right, and at least for the duration of the pilot each will be seen as a gatekeeper qualification. However, it is intended that the large majority of students will be entered for both GCSEs, and that students who obtain both GCSEs will be well equipped for further study in mathematics, engineering, the physical and medical sciences, and the social sciences at Level 3 and above.

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