How is Mathematics organised at Balcarras School?

Year 7 (Y7) is split into two bands with each band containing 3 or 4 tutor groups. For the first half term they are taught as a tutor group. After the October half-term they are put into sets based on their raw KS2 results. If a pupil has not taken KS2 exams or their school does not provide the raw scores, we will use the numeracy test that all pupils sit at the end of the first half term to place them.

Being placed in a lower set does not mean that a pupil is not good at mathematics; it merely reflects their relative position on entry in an intake of nearly 200 pupils. Some pupils and parents find the initial setting to be a worry, especially if a child was one of the best mathematicians in a small primary school but we have found that the only fair way to allocate starting sets is to use the KS2 raw score and rank pupils. It is our aim to stretch and challenge pupils in all sets and at all abilities.

Again this year, pupils who have started at Balcarras in the bottom set in Y7 have achieved grade 8 at GCSE in Y11.

During Y7, changes are made between sets if it is clear that a student is wrongly placed.

All Y7 pupils take a common examination and this, together with performance in class work and homework throughout the year, forms the basis of set allocation for Y8 within two parallel half-year bands.

In Y9 pupils are placed in sets 1-9 as a full year group. In Y10 and Y11 we go back to two parallel half-year bands. Within each band pupils are setted for mathematics based on their exam and class work.



We always enter students into the highest level paper that we believe will maximize their grade in external examinations

Key Stage 3

Follow the kangaroo maths Key Stage 3 Framework for Teaching Mathematics, with a strong mastery approach. In accordance with the National Strategy we aim to develop both mental and written mathematical skills.

The scheme mirrors the requirements of the national curriculum and includes number and algebra, geometry and measures, statistics together with mathematical processes and applications.

Being in smaller set groupings, aided by Teaching Assistants where appropriate, supports the least able.

We set and internally assess KS3 SAT examinations to determine setting for Y10.


All students follow a course of study that can lead to a GCSE examination in mathematics. We follow the Edexcel specification and pupils sit three formal examinations at the end of the course. There is no coursework in mathematics. The examinations include elements of ‘functional skills’ and the final grade will be between 9 and 1, with foundation students able to achieve a maximum of a grade 5.

Results are consistently well above the national average and amongst the highest in the county.

In June 2019, 90.5% of the students in Y11 achieved an 9 - 4 grade in mathematics with 47.1% of pupils gaining a grade 7 or better and 11.4% achieving a grade 9.

2019 90.5% 9-4 in Maths
2018 89.7%
2017 94.8%
2016 86.1% A*-C in Maths
2015 91.3%
2014 90.5%
2013 93.6%
2012 95%
2011 90%

GCSE Mathematics 2019

A level

Advanced level mathematics is growing in popularity and is relevant to most career choices. We offer units in Pure Maths, Mechanics, Statistics and Decision Maths. Balcarras School has an enviable reputation for A Level success.

In 2019, at A Level, 21 students achieved an A* grade and over 80% achieved at least a grade A. This gave the department an ALPS grade 1 making it the best mathematics department in the country (including grammar schools and independent schools). In A Level Further maths 85% achieved at least a grade A. Many of these students went on to study maths at some of the best universities in the country.

  • Mathematics was the most applied for subject in the sixth form in 2017, 2018 and 2019
  • Balcarras is one of the few schools in the county that offers both A level Mathematics and A level Further Mathematics

What equipment will be needed?

In maths lessons you will need to have a pen, pencil and rubber together with mathematical drawing instruments (e.g. compass, ruler and protractor).

We expect all students to bring and use a scientific calculator and this is essential for two of the examinations papers. The school has mathematical equipment and calculators for sale and these can be purchased from any maths teacher.

  • Items of equipment will be on sale during the new Y7 induction meeting in June
  • A fixed price pack includes a calculator and all the equipment needed

Does the school take part in any mathematical competitions?

Yes. We regularly enter students for the UKMT Mathematical Challenges at Junior, Intermediate and Senior Levels as well as the regional Team Mathematics Challenges.

We run a maths club for Y11, 12 and 13 pupils every Thursday lunchtime which prepares students for the Maths Challenges and also for STEP/ MAT exams prior to University applications.