Steven Walker, Maths Subject Advisor
During the reform of A Level Maths there were four key changes that teachers raised as concerns. Will Hornby, OCR Lead on A Level Maths, discussed these in his blog Four big changes to Maths A Level qualifications, first published in December 2016.
In this series of blogs I’ll look back at these four changes. I’ll take a look through the comments from teachers and from stakeholders and assessors to see the impact over these first few years of the new qualifications, starting with the decoupling of AS from A Level grades.
The major systematic change of the key stage 5 reform was the move from a modular 4 AS/3 A Level programme to a straight linear 3 A Level programme. There was a concern that this would result in a reduction in the numbers of students sitting post 16 maths. In terms of absolute numbers, a look at JCQ examination results data shows that whilst there was a dip in the first full assessment year of 2019, the numbers appear to have now bounced back.
One of the rationales for a linear course was to encourage a more holistic programme of study and allow greater synoptic assessment, especially across the pure and applied content. General feedback from teachers regarding the new reformed OCR specifications have been positive. The extra exemplification of the defined content within the specification rather than as a separate document was highlighted as useful.
To support teachers’ planning we have one and two year editable schemes of work, which include guidance on the ordering of topics, the links between them and suggestions of how to divide the teaching between two teachers, as is often the case at A Level. We have also included additional guidance for co-teaching across Maths and Further Maths within the specifications and in support material.
Our delivery guides outline prior knowledge requirements and provide further detail of links across the topic areas. There are also links to third party resources to support teachers with their classroom and flipped learning planning. We have a bank of topic-based tests, covering procedural requests, argument and proof, problem solving and modelling that can be used as homework or formative assessment.
We have also produced a range of progress tests focused on Pure, Statistics and Mechanics using edited versions of past paper questions extracted from ExamBuilder and formatted in the style of reformed exam papers.
All our support material can be found on Teach Cambridge.
Examiners have noted that some candidates struggle with questions focused on the AS content, with evidence to suggest that revision has perhaps focused more heavily on the later A Level only content.
Teachers may want to incorporate AS past papers, the AS practice papers and our practice tests (created from edited legacy questions) for diagnostic assessment during the latter part of the course. Again, these can be found on Teach Cambridge.
For more information from examiners, see our examiners’ reports that have been produced alongside marking the scripts each year. Students can access all past papers except the latest series using our past paper finder, and teachers can find the full set, including the latest series, on Teach Cambridge.
Share your feedback on the A Level Maths reform below, or join us at our A Level Maths Teachers’ Network webinar on 23 November 2023 at 4–5.30pm. Also, look out for our full programme of professional development webinars for 2023/24. If you have any questions, you can email us at firstname.lastname@example.org, call us on 01223 553998 or tweet us @OCR_Maths.
You can also sign up for subject updates to receive the latest maths news, updates and resources.
Steven originally studied engineering before completing a PGCE in secondary mathematics. He has taught secondary maths in England and overseas. Steven joined OCR in 2014 and worked on the redevelopment of OCR’s A Level Mathematics suite of qualifications. Away from the office he enjoys cooking and travel.