MathsMentors: students helping GCSE retakers online

About this idea

Every year, about 150,000 college students retake GCSE Maths. Less than 1 in 7 succeed, and this is partly because colleges don't have the funding or the teaching resources to support retakers.

This is a very serious issue for the students. They have to cope with the short term anxiety of trying again to pass a subject they have previously failed. In many cases, there is little or no support. Government has ruled that they must pass, but has given FE Colleges no additional funding. Then, there is the much more serious long term impact, when courses, qualifications and occupations are closed permanently to those who can't pass.

Obrussa has developed an online Maths learning system which is being used today by private tutors to teach 14-16 year olds preparing for GCSE. The system includes the curriculum framework, a library of assessments with feedback, progress tracking and a live teaching environment with whiteboard, audio and IM. This platform is underpinned by smart data algorithms that recommend content and next steps to learners.

In this project we propose to develop a special version of the platform for volunteer Maths teaching by undergraduates. Target volunteers will be undergraduate mathematicians and scientists with maths A level. By devoting a fairly small amount of time on a regular basis, volunteers will be able to make a real difference to the less fortunate learners they will help.

At the same time, volunteering will give them valuable experience in teaching and mentoring, and a sense of giving back by sharing their knowledge and expertise. 

Obrussa will underwrite the running costs of the platform. Undergraduate volunteers will be able to provide a well-structured teaching programme thanks to Obrussa's curriculum framework and smart features.

The grant will be used to develop mentor and volunteer-specific features of the platform. These include the ability of mentors to develop profiles and of students to rate them; some safeguarding features; and community features so that institutions can develop their own groups (for example, universities developing groups of volunteers and colleges learner support groups).

Jisc could of course play an incredibly valuable role in this project by publicising it and helping the project to develop its network of volunteer teachers and learners.