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The 5Rs approach to GCSE Maths resits, a two-arm cluster randomised trial

New funding regulations (2014/15) mean that full time students aged 16-19 who have achieved a grade D/3 in GCSE maths must continue studying GCSE maths as a “condition of funding” of their education. Recent surveys identify pressures caused by maths resits as one of greatest concerns for colleges and vacancies for maths teachers as the third most difficult to fill. The 5Rs programme aims to improve the maths skills and GCSE outcomes for young people aged 16-19 resitting their GCSE maths. Student motivation and success rates in these resits are low. There is also a shortage of qualified maths teachers in post-16 settings. The 5Rs model involves the delivery of highly-structured lessons supplemented by out-of-class revision. It is designed to boost student engagement, enjoyment and self-study, and enhance teacher confidence and competence, resulting in improved grades. Some promising case study evidence supports the intervention but there has been no formal evaluation. This study aims to investigate the effectiveness of the 5Rs revision year approach on GCSE maths resit results, and the influence of various factors (eg fidelity/adherence; dosage; teacher engagement/feedback; student engagement/feedback; feedback on training provision; nature of “business as usual”).

A two-armed cluster randomised controlled trial with random allocation at the setting level will be conducted. All post-16 settings in England will be eligible to participate (with certain provisos eg a minimum of 15 students aged 16-19 resitting GCSE maths in their current year’s cohort).  Settings will be randomised to receive the 5Rs intervention and apply the approach in the teaching of GCSE resit students, or to deliver teaching as usual.  The primary outcome measure, on which impact will be assessed, is the GCSE raw mark, and the secondary outcomes will be whether a pass grade was achieved or not, along with ratings on a maths attitude measure and student attendance at exams. There will also be a process evaluation to study in detail how 5Rs is implemented, involving surveys of teachers and students, case study visits to 10 settings (6 intervention, 4 control) to observe lessons and interview staff and students.  Settings will be asked to provide data relating to participating students, GSCE scores, and student attendance; teachers will be asked to complete pre- and post-evaluation teacher surveys; and students will be asked to complete a post-intervention student survey/attitude to maths questionnaire. 

NOTE: due to the cancellation of GCSE exams in June 2020, when students were due to take their maths resits, no impact data (nor student attendance data nor attitudes to maths surveys) was available. Most of the Implementation and Process evaluation was completed and formed the basis of the final report.

More detail about the study can be found here.

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Funders(s): Education Endowment Foundation (EEF)
Start Date: December 2018
End Date: June 2021