Advisory Committee on Mathematics Education (ACME)

Post-16 mathematics: an alternative level 2 qualification?

What is the issue?

Following recent policy change, students who have not achieved at least a GCSE grade C in mathematics (or equivalent) will continue to work towards this qualification during their 16-19 education. This equates to 50% of post-16 students. A recommendation from the 2011 Wolf Review was that all learners should continue to study mathematics until reaching this level.

ACME supports the aspiration that all students should study mathematics to 18. However, many suggest that retaking GCSE Mathematics examinations, often many times, can be demotivating for students and likely does not promote depth of learning. Results are generally poor, especially for those with prior grades lower than D.

ACME has been considering whether GCSE mathematics is best suited for such students, or whether an alternative qualification would better meet their needs. In its Maths Snapshot 'Maths for all to 18' ACME argues that alternatives to re-taking GCSE should be a strategic development priority, with adequate funding.


What work is being done on this?

ACME published a discussion document on this issue in July 2013.

A consultation on Functional Skills in mathematics and English was launched in Spring 2016.


  • July 2006: Mathematics in Further Education colleges report published by ACME.
  • July 2010: ACME published Post-16 in 2016 in which reference is made to an alternative level 2 qualification that is equivalent to GCSE Mathematics, which involves project work.
  • May 2011: ACME published a position paper on Early and Mutiple Entry to GCSE Mathematics, which discussed the importance of GCSE mathematics.
  • July 2013: ACME published the discussion paper Post-16 Mathematics: Engaging the new cohort'. ACME noted its support for the aspiration that everyone should be actively engaging in mathematics until they are functioning at the equivalent of at least a Level 2 in mathematics. Various issues with the existing qualification arrangements were outlined; highlighting that re-sitting a GCSE numerous times is not beneficial to students or to schools and colleges.
  • July 2013: Workshop session on a 'Mature GCSE' at the ACME 2013 Annual Conference.
  • April 2014: ACME Chair, Steve Sparks signed up a letter in the Times from the City and Guilds, which called for consideration of a practical, contextualised and rigourous post-16 qualification.
  • December 2014: ACME published its Maths Snapshot Maths for all to 18 outlining that all young people should study maths up to 18.
  • Spring 2015: ACME contributed to the ETF review on mathematics qualifications.
  • Spring 2016: ACME is looking at this issue in relation to the Functional Skills consultation.

Relevant Maths Memos blog posts

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