Newham Sixth Form College, also known as NewVic, is London’s largest sixth form college. Situated in Plaistow in Newham, the college provides courses (including A Level and BTEC) for more than 2,500 full-time students.


In the first year Core Maths was offered to both Business BTEC and Science BTEC students. Both require mathematical skills and knowledge and so it was anticipated that Core Maths would support students taking these subjects, especially if they were not doing either A level or AS level mathematics. Twenty students enrolled on the course, the majority of whom have continued into the second year. This year the course is open also to students doing BTEC computing, some of whom initially started on A Level mathematics before joining Core Maths. The teachers also encouraged any student who wanted to continue with mathematics but who were not keen on the idea of doing A Level mathematics, to sign up for the Core Maths course.  The result is a new group of 29 students taking the course in year 12.

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Student Response

The Core Maths teachers have had very positive feedback from students and attendance is high.  Some students like it so much that their attendance is better for Core Maths than for their main programme.  The teacher believes this is down to the fact that students see clear benefits for taking the course. Newham is in a very deprived area. Core Maths enables students to help with financial matters at home which the teacher notes can be of huge benefit to their families.

‘Being able to help at home with finance is a massive step forward for these students………I had a mum at parents evening last week who came and said “thank you, this is the best course that any of my children has ever done. We’ve changed so much in our household, we now understand why we shouldn’t use the electricity key but go on to direct debit, so we’re saving money”. It’s [Core Maths] changing their lives’. Core Maths Teacher

This year teachers are finding that a number of prospective students being interviewed for a place at NewVIc are asking about Core Maths. They don’t want to do A Level maths but have heard about the course from friends or family and are interested in taking it.  The Core Maths teachers at NewVIc believe that if the course continues to be fun, useful and engaging, word will spread and demand will continue to increase. Some quotes provided by teachers included:

'Some core maths questions can be highly useful for financial and accounting based careers such as taxes and income and is a course which is highly recommended.' Core Maths Student
‘Core Maths is a great subject for those who are looking for an alternative subject, and for those who needs skills to solve daily life problems such how many boxes could you fit in a van when you are moving home.’ ( these kind of questions are covered in Fermi estimations in Core Maths.)' Core Maths Student

Five students applying for nursing have already had offers partly on the basis that they are doing Core Math. These students are not studying A level or AS level mathematics but the Universities that they have applied to are willing to accept Core Maths.

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Upscaling Core Maths Provision

At the moment delivering Core Maths to the majority of eligible students is not an option for NewVic. Currently the team can just cover the 2 groups they have now and while they would embrace the opportunity to deliver at scale, resources are obviously limited, even with a team of twelve mathematics teachers.

This is particularly the case given the conflicting demands of running GCSE resit classes which are timetabled to run alongside Core Maths. However the teachers of Core Maths are looking to be more creative in their delivery so that ultimately they can accommodate more students. This year staff are starting to require students to do more work online or outside the classroom. A Level maths is strong on flipped learning, so a lot of class-based skills work is delivered to students online already.  Core Maths students have been allocated three hours contact time per week this year. The Core Maths teacher is experimenting some weeks with having students use a portion of that time for independent work.

Staff are also working to ensure that contact time when it happens, is well-planned and very meaningful. If delivery can be developed in this way it means that the number of Core Maths classes grow each year 

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Impact on Teaching

At NewVic the Core Maths teacher welcomes the opportunity that Core Maths provides to experiment in the classroom. She notes that teaching the course has completely changed her teaching in the sense that lessons are more free flowing, topics can be explored in detail using a more creative and fun approach. The whole maths team are now involved in teaching the course and it has acted as form of CPD for them.

'I’m experimenting…. I’m loving it so much. Then I take the content to my AS maths and AS stats classes and it’s just brilliant, it’s completely changed my teaching.'

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Linking Core Maths to Other Subjects

The Core Maths teachers are keen to ensure that Core Maths supports students with the other subjects they are studying.  Each year they look at the profile of students and what programmes they are taking. They then explore the schemes of work for those subjects and see how Core Maths can complement and support students’ main subjects. In particular, the order of topics is adapted as necessary so it complements the schemes of work for other subjects.

'If you can capture them and get them to realize what real maths is in life, then you’ve won them and if it helps their course work, then wow, even better.'

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Lessons Learned

The team at NewVic have found that giving students the choice to take Core Maths rather than making it compulsory works best.  Successful recruitment can come from not only promoting the advantages of doing Core Maths for students’ other subjects, but also from considering how it might support applications to particular university or vocational courses. Staff discuss with students how Core Maths might help them succeed in their applications to such courses and also how it will help them in their studies. So for example for most nursing courses there is a maths entry exam which interested students are told taking Core Maths would be a good preparation for.

It’s not only crucial to promote the benefits of Core Maths to students and teachers from other subjects but also to make sure senior management are aware of them.  Even if they are supportive of Core Maths, they have other priorities to attend to particularly given the challenges for Sixth Form Colleges.  Maintaining a profile for Core Maths is important so that the SLT is committed to continuing with the course.

Finally, the Core Maths teacher at NewVic notes that teaching Core Maths requires a different approach than is used with GCSE and A Levels currently.  It can change how teachers work, in a positive way and can actually provide a form of CPD.  Teaching Core Maths is also a good preparation for the new A levels to come and the new GCSE curriculum which includes problem-solving,

‘For Colleges I would say take it on because it will really train your staff to think differently’.

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