The claims that Welsh children are being set up to fail have been circulated as far as the Welsh Assembly. Upon receiving the information set out by a local maths tutor UKIP’s Neil Hamilton contacted Llanelli Online to present his views.
Mr Hamilton writes:
As we understand it, since 2015, there are now two mathematics-related GSCEs taught in schools in Wales: GCSE Mathematics and the newer GCSE Mathematics with Numeracy. The motivations of the newer GCSE are not wholly clear to us. Good grades in traditional GCSE Mathematics alone appears to be one of the requirements of entry to A Level Mathematics, A Level Further Mathematics and STEP/S-Papers in Mathematics, which are the qualifications wanted by top UK universities. It is not obvious that the newer GCSE Mathematics with Numeracy is, or ever will, replace the demand for a traditional GCSE Mathematics qualification in any UK educational institution. So this invites the questions: Why was the newer GCSE created? And, why are so many students being entered for examinations for this qualification after 18 months of study when the total course length is 2 years?
In response to the first question, Why was the newer GCSE created? Mr Hamilton said:
One motivation may be to allow students to do well in a mathematics related GCSE, if they are not likely to do well in traditional GCSE mathematics. We have no objection to this situation provided that the course is done in the recommended time, so that a 2-year linear course is not rushed in 18 months. These arrangements would give students the best chance of achieving high grades in this newer GCSE.
In response to the second question, Why are so many students being entered for examinations for this qualification after 18 months of study when the total course length is 2 years? Neil Hamilton said:
We, as you, cannot fully decipher why large numbers of students are being entered for a 2-year linear course in only 18 months, especially when the qualification is not the same as the traditional GCSE mathematics qualification, which may be a better (or the only) gateway to the A Level, STEP and S-Paper Mathematics and Further Mathematics route desired by gifted students. It is, therefore, not clear why gifted students in mathematics should enter the newer GCSE Mathematics with Numeracy at all, let alone do the 2-year course in 18 months.
Mr Hamilton Continued:
If schools are going to enter students for the newer GCSE early and do it in 18 months, then they must cover all course materials and ensure that students are adequately prepared. The suggestion that they do not have time to cover all materials and students should purchase private tuition to prepare for the course is outrageous!
Speaking about the issue in Carmarthenshire Mr Hamilton said:
We are not surprised to be seeing more failures from Plaid Cymru-led Carmarthenshire County Council on education policy. We have no confidence in Plaid Cymru Councillor Gareth Jones, Executive Board Member for Education and Children. As you well know, he has failed to listen to local people on the issues concerning the changes to Llangennech Primary School, contrary to a 757 person local residents’ petition against the changes. Being alerted to a further failure concerning the GCSE Mathematics with Numeracy qualification, is therefore, no surprise to us.
In response to the comments from Councillor Gareth Jones, quoted in the Llanelli Online article, UKIP Wales said:
Formal examinations are not data gathering exercises. Mock examinations are better devices to gather student data. Moreover, attentive teachers are the very best guide to deciding whether students should sit a formal exam. Poor results from leaving students under-prepared for GCSE examinations is likely to cause a loss in confidence to the students, upset families and place undue stress upon both. For similar reasons, GCSE examinations are not to be taken multiple times until desired grades are achieved: They are to be prepared for properly, covering all material in a timely manner.
Speaking about the comments made by Nia Griffith MP Mr Hamilton said:
The solution from Nia Griffith MP (Labour) described in the article is not of sufficient depth and detail when compared to UKIP’s. Her proposal of banning 18-month entry to the GCSE Mathematics with Numeracy may be too blunt an instrument to solve the problems described. It may be that 18-month or November/December examination entries are useful to mature students and those taking re-sits, although we do not believe that they should be used to force students to do a two year linear course in 18 months.
Mr Hamilton was critical of the response from Lee Waters AM/AC. He said:
Lee Waters AM (Labour) suggestion, as described in your article, kicks the issue into the long grass: We do not need to write letters to Kirsty Williams, Education Secretary to know what top universities want. We can all see what we want by examining their websites. Their website suggests that the traditional GCSE Mathematics qualification should be priority for gifted students. The newer GCSE mathematics with Numeracy qualification may be useful to some students but, we emphasise that all topics in the course must be covered and the students must be given sufficient time for practice and preparation.