#188 Ten ways to get amazing GCSE maths results with Jo Morgan

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This episode of the Mr Barton Maths podcast is proudly supported by Casio Education. Check out the fantastic resources they have available for teachers here: education.casio.co.uk/mr-barton-maths

Episode details

In this episode, Craig Barton and Jo Morgan discuss Jo’s career journey and the context of her school. They then dive into the topic of achieving amazing GCSE results, starting with the importance of a solid Key Stage 3 and 4 curriculum and pedagogy. Jo emphasizes the need for high-quality teaching, a robust curriculum, and going into depth on topics. She also discusses the benefits of setting and the challenges of staffing Key Stage 3. Joe mentions the use of shared resources and the importance of consistency in teaching across the department. In this part of the conversation, Craig and Jo discuss the importance of being prescriptive in teaching methods and the use of calculators in the classroom. Jo emphasizes the need for live modeling and independent practice, while also acknowledging the challenges of using mini whiteboards effectively. They also discuss the benefits of regular calculator use from the start of Year 7 and the impact of embedded retrieval in lessons. In this part of the conversation, Jo discusses the use of warm-up booklets, assessment practices, and the benefits of using the online homework platform Sparks. She also talks about strategies for supporting the lowest and highest attainers at Key Stage 4. In this final part of the conversation, Jo and Craig discuss the impact of different qualifications on student outcomes, the importance of high standards and expectations in the math department, and the effective use of data to identify and address problems. Jo emphasizes the need for strong department leadership and communication, including being highly visible, leading by example, and having a clear strategy. She also discusses the importance of creating a positive and supportive culture within the department. Jo also mentions the success of her school’s Paper Society and other intervention programs. She emphasizes the need for support from leadership and the challenges of limited resources.

The 10 strategies:

  1. Solid KS3 & 4 curriculum and pedagogy
  2. Regular calculator use from the start of Year 7
  3. Embedded retrieval
  4. Effective assessment throughout Years 7 – 11
  5. Use of Sparx
  6. Strategies for lowest and highest attainers at KS4
  7. Standards, expectations and culture in the maths department
  8. Effective use of data
  9. Strong department leadership and communication
  10. Effective use of revision and intervention in Year 11


  • A solid Key Stage 3 and 4 curriculum and pedagogy are crucial for achieving amazing GCSE results.
  • High-quality teaching, a robust curriculum, and going into depth on topics are key components of a successful Key Stage 3.
  • Setting can be beneficial for both high and low attaining students, ensuring appropriate support and challenge.
  • Sharing resources and promoting consistency in teaching across the department can enhance student learning.
  • Staffing Key Stage 3 can be a challenge, but utilizing the expertise of the team and providing support can help overcome this.
  • MathsPad is a highly recommended resource for task design and lesson materials. Being prescriptive in teaching methods can be beneficial, especially for less experienced teachers or in departments with weaker teaching teams.
  • Live modeling and independent practice are important components of effective teaching.
  • The use of mini whiteboards can be challenging and may not always be the best approach for independent practice.
  • Regular calculator use from the start of Year 7 can improve students’ numeracy skills and make topics more accessible.
  • Embedded retrieval, through warm-up booklets and end-of-unit tests, helps reinforce learning and identify gaps in knowledge. Warm-up booklets are a valuable tool for engaging students and preparing them for the lesson.
  • Low-stakes assessments, such as green papers and snapshots, can help students take ownership of their learning and identify areas for improvement.
  • Sparks is an effective online homework platform that provides meaningful and high-quality practice for students.
  • Strategies for supporting the lowest and highest attainers at Key Stage 4 include offering additional qualifications, providing targeted support, and setting high expectations.
  • Certificate of Further Maths is a valuable qualification that can boost students’ grades and improve their performance at A-level. Different qualifications, such as the AQA Level 2 Certificate and Further Maths, can have a significant impact on student outcomes, particularly for high attainers.
  • Creating a positive and supportive culture within the math department, with high standards and expectations, can lead to improved student engagement and achievement.
  • Effective use of data, including identifying and addressing problems, can help improve student outcomes.
  • Strong department leadership and communication, including being highly visible, leading by example, and having a clear strategy, are essential for success.
  • It is important to prioritize the well-being and development of students, as well as their academic progress.


  1. Career journey and GCSE results in a South London comprehensive school. (5:16)
  2. GCSE results and progress measures. (10:33)
  3. School performance metrics and progress measures. (12:49)
  4. The impact of progress 8 measure on students’ future opportunities. (18:15)
  5. Key stage three math curriculum and pedagogy. (23:47)
  6. Math teaching strategies and resources in a school with non-specialist teachers. (28:18)
  7. Sharing lesson plans and quality control in a school. (33:15)
  8. Lesson planning and resource use in math education. (38:07)
  9. Math teaching methods and expectations for lessons. (41:41)
  10. Teaching mechanics for the first time. (45:34)
  11. Using mini whiteboards in the classroom. (48:41)
  12. Math teaching strategies and calculator use. (52:47)
  13. Using calculators in math class to improve understanding and skills. (59:15)
  14. Math education with a focus on calculator use and retrieval practice. (1:02:40)
  15. Retrieval practice in language lessons. (1:07:29)
  16. Using retrieval practice to fill knowledge gaps in math classes. (1:09:17)
  17. Math warm-ups and booklets for engagement and assessment. (1:13:49)
  18. Using retrieval practice, prerequisites, and assessment in math lessons. (1:18:29)
  19. Using low-stakes assessments in math class. (1:22:52)
  20. Effective whole-class feedback in math lessons. (1:27:40)
  21. Teaching and assessment strategies in English grammar school. (1:29:16)
  22. The impact of Sparks, an online maths platform, on student performance. (1:33:50)
  23. Homework strategies in a UK school. (1:38:23)
  24. Homework strategies and student motivation. (1:42:57)
  25. Offering additional maths qualification to boost GCSE and A-level results. (1:48:13)
  26. Math education, including further maths and entry-level maths. (1:51:58)
  27. Teaching maths and setting high standards in a school. (1:55:33)
  28. Effective leadership and data analysis in a high school math department. (2:00:38)
  29. Data analysis and reporting in education. (2:06:03)
  30. Department leadership and communication in schools. (2:13:20)
  31. Department meetings and their frequency. (2:19:18)
  32. Effective teaching strategies and data analysis in maths. (2:22:24)
  33. Math interventions and support for Year 11 students. (2:27:16)
  34. GCSE maths teaching strategies and student assessment. (2:32:19)
  35. Math teaching strategies and school challenges. (2:36:36)
  36. Improving GCSE exam review sessions. (2:41:12)


  • “I think it’s all about having a good Key Stage 3 but then I thought obviously you have to have a good Key Stage 4 as well.”
  • “Everyone teaches the same thing, the curriculum in every class is the same throughout year 7, 8 and 9.”
  • “Sharing lessons and resources is important for consistency and saving time.”
  • “I think it starts to get a bit problematic in many of the departments I visit and I often advise the head of the department to take a slightly more prescriptive approach.”
  • “At the beginning of the year when we have a maths department meeting on insect day, I do have a list of things that I expect to see in maths lessons.”
  • “Independent practice is a big thing for us and then there’s stuff like retrieval, depth, challenge, those kind of things being in the lesson.”
  • “Our students really care about results.”
  • “We custom write our warm-up booklets to ensure they are engaging and relevant.”
  • “Using warm-up booklets allows for a quick start to the lesson and eliminates the need for students to wait for the teacher.”
  • “Big shout out to AQA’s level 2 certificate and further maths there.”
  • “It’s having a great impact on their maths and will have a great impact on their A-levels.”
  • “We’ve got this double whammy of boosting GCSE and A level results by offering this option.”
  • “Am I doing the things that I want my team to do? Am I modeling good behaviors in the department?”
  • “Getting GCSE results, we used to spend a lot of time in that one of the guys was an exam marker for Excel, which again, I’d advise anyone to do at least once, not for the money, but just for the kind of experience of knowing what gets marked and stuff.”
  • “I chose Year 11 intervention over department time. I was the only department in the school that did that.”

Resources from this episode:

  • Jo’s PowerPoint to accompany this episode is here
  • The thread about Sparx is here
  • My newsletter about Walking-Talking Mocks is here
  • The job advert for Jo’s school is here
  • You can purchase a departmental pass to mine and Jo’s course, Marvellous Maths 3, here

More about Jo:

My usual plugs:

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