Education Endowment Foundation:The 5Rs approach to GCSE Maths resits

The 5Rs approach to GCSE Maths resits

Association of Colleges
Implementation cost 
Evidence strengthNot given for this trial
Impact (months)
-
Project info

Independent Evaluator

The York Trials Unit logo
The York Trials Unit
University of York logo
University of York

Testing a year-long programme focusing on revision techniques and key GCSE maths content

Pupils: 4486 Schools: 88 Grant: £235,570
Key Stage: 5 Duration: 2 year(s) 7 month(s) Type of Trial: Efficacy Trial
Completed September 2021

The 5Rs approach aims to enhance the support that teachers give to 16 – 19 year-old students resitting GCSE Maths in order to improve their attainment. The programme includes three teacher training days, short diagnostic tests, a scheme of work including lesson plans and a defined lesson structure, and access to online resources for teachers and students. Each 5Rs lesson is structured into five sections: Recall (recalling key Maths facts), Routine (completing practice questions), Revise (revising one specific topic), Repeat (practising exam questions) and Ready (focusing on exam technique).

The 5Rs approach to GCSE maths resits trial was co-funded by the EEF and J.P. Morgan as part of a funding round focused on improving the evidence about the best ways to improve English and maths outcomes for disadvantaged learners re-sitting GCSE exams. Pass rates for students re-sitting GCSE maths are very low, and the post-16 sector needs more and better evidence about what can work for these students.

Due to the closure of schools and colleges during the Covid-19 pandemic and changes to GCSE assessments, it has not been possible for this evaluation to estimate the impact of the 5Rs programme on students’ attainment in GCSE maths in Summer 2020, their attendance at exam sessions or attitudes towards maths. The evaluation of the implementation and process of the 5Rs programme was mostly able to take place as planned.

Most teachers perceived the 5Rs programme to have improved their students’ mathematical knowledge, independent learning strategies, exam technique and confidence in maths. Less than half of teachers attended both of the first two training sessions. However, most teachers seemed to understand the 5Rs approach and its underlying philosophy well, and to have applied the five-part structure to their lessons, even if they did not follow the detailed lesson plans. Although the programme aimed to increase student revision outside the classroom, this evaluation did not find evidence that the 5Rs programme had successfully encouraged this. Some teachers also felt that the 5Rs programme assumed lessons could focus on revising maths concepts, when in fact time often had to be spent teaching maths concepts anew, due to the variation in prior mathematical knowledge in some classes.

These findings suggest that there are some promising elements of the 5Rs programme that seem to have worked well and some areas that could be adapted and improved. Although this was a well-designed randomised control trial, it has been unable to provide robust evidence of the impact of the 5Rs programme, due to disruption associated with the Covid-19 pandemic. As a result, the EEF intends to conduct a second efficacy trial of the 5Rs programme as part of the Accelerator Fund. 

  1. The 5Rs programme was well-received by teachers and was implemented as intended up until the disruption caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. One exception was that the programme intended to increase student revision outside the classroom but this evaluation did not find evidence that the 5Rs programme had successfully encouraged this.
  2. Less than half of teachers attended both of the first two training sessions. However, most teachers seemed to understand the 5Rs approach and its underlying philosophy well and to have applied the five-part structure to their lessons. They were less likely to follow the detailed lesson plans.
  3. Teachers perceived the 5Rs programme to have improved students’ mathematical knowledge, independent learning strategies, exam technique, and confidence in maths.
  4. Some teachers felt that the 5Rs programme assumed lessons could focus on revision when in fact time often had to be diverted to teaching maths concepts instead of revising them. Additionally, engagement tended to wane over the course of longer lessons, which affected the last two elements of the lesson structure (Repeat and Ready). All teachers of GCSE maths resits face challenges such as these in motivating pupils who have previously failed to achieve a standard pass (grade 4 or above) in GCSE maths and so are often unwilling to engage with compulsory maths lessons.