Centres for Excellence in Maths

The Centres for Excellence in Maths (CfEM) programme is a national improvement project aimed at delivering a step change in maths teaching up to Level 2 in post-16 settings. It is funded by the Department for Education (DfE) which has chosen the Education and Training Foundation, the national workforce development body for the Further Education and Training sector, to manage and lead this programme on its behalf.

Over the next three years, the ETF will work with a range of expert delivery partners and the 21 Centres to help increase the number of young people leaving compulsory education with basic maths skills, up to GCSE and equivalent level. This is to help improve their employability and engage with further learning.

Core Themes of Activity

The programme is focussed primarily on four themes of activity:

  • An adapted approach to mathematics mastery suitable for the post-16 sector.
  • Approaches to contextualisation which support the diversity of studies in general further education.
  • Motivation and engagement approaches for learners who will often feel maths post 16 is an inevitable continuation of a cycle of failure.
  • The use of technology within mathematics education in the sector.

Core Programme

The ambition of the programme is simple – to improve outcomes for students up to Level 2 or below. This is being undertaken in a range of ways:

  • The establishment of 21 Centres for Excellence in Maths: Grant funded by DfE, these Centres are providers in the Further Education sector selected as organisations with a clear strategic plan for maths improvement.
  • Local networks of partners for each Centre. Ten or more provider organisations will partner with every Centre to share practice, learn from each other and from national activity.
  • Evidence gathering. The delivery partnership includes organisations targeting collation and creation of evidence and research to better inform Centres and the wider sector of what interventions and actions may work well.
  • Resources and handbooks. A number of evidence-based documents and resources will be developed and gathered to help inform teaching, and to support the trialling of some key methods or ideas. They will be freely available to all teachers and providers in the sector.
  • Trials and research. The Centres and the University of Nottingham will work together to carry out a range of research trials looking at aspects of the four themes. These are planned to develop over time progressively targeting promising areas of work to support the sector.
  • Training and Development. The Centres are able to spend their grant funding on CPD and support for themselves and their partners. In addition, the programme provides centralised CPD for the Centres to ensure they all work to similar standards. Once initial trials have been carried out, wider training will be offered to upskill teachers in the methods / learning that has been developed.
  • Support and challenge. The Centres, partner providers and the wider sector will be both supported and challenged to look to change their practices with the goal of improving learner outcomes.

The programme is a collaborative sharing and learning project with teachers and students at its heart. It is a government funded collaboration with no commercial goals, and is targeting learners from any qualification, exam board or background equally.

The CfEM programme will ensure it supports learners with diverse needs, develop ways to stretch and challenge able learners who may have struggled in a school environment, and will be as responsive as possible to the context of the different providers in the sector.

Expert Partners

A range of expert partners have come together to support this exciting programme project, each with different expertise and work they will be developing.

The consortium delivering this work includes:

  • University of Nottingham: leading on the evidence base for our work and delivering a range of trials across the sector from September 2019. They will be working directly with the Centres to support wider research and trials. They will continue to build on their extensive world-renowned maths research base to advise the sector on what may be most effective.
  • Behavioural Insights Team (BIT): supporting colleges and wider partners to understand the underlying motivational challenges faced by students in a resit phase of education. They will be expanding on previous work and research they have carried out in this area and will work with the Centres to understand what more can be done to motivate learners at this challenging time.
  • Association of Colleges (AoC): supporting networking and impact across the sector, including a range of national forums and methodology specific networks. As the national membership body for colleges they will be using their considerable voice in the sector to help champion the work of the Centres and the delivery team and support individual teachers through the networks being established.
  • Pearson: leading on the preparation of evidence informed resources and handbooks for the sector. The resources and guides needed for work of this kind need to be high quality and robust publications. Pearson bring their market leading expertise to help develop these publications, which as government funded documents will be permanently copyright free and available to download from the ETF website. They will carry out resource audits and work with the Centres as necessary to help develop their ideas into stronger materials, which will remain free for the sector to use and credit the Centres that help develop them.
  • EEDI: supporting the delivery consortium and the Centres with a baseline diagnostic approach for all the Centres. As a market leading digital assessment and learning company, EEDI already have substantial evidence of what many young people do and do not understand at GCSE. Their baseline tests will be simple to use, short, and form the basis of national data for the Centres and partners.
  • Touchconsulting (TC): delivering evidence-based Leadership Training and Professional Development for Post-16 Advanced Practitioners. A long-standing partner of the ETF, Touchconsulting deliver evidence based CPD focussing on building communities of practitioners who can support each other over time. They will underpin the early phases of the programme with training in leadership and teaching methods appropriate to the research and trials being proposed.
  • PET-Xi: supporting the roll out of large-scale CPD. PET-Xi will work with the delivery partners in later years of the project to bring CPD to as wide an audience as possible, based on the evidence gathered and research carried out during the first years of the programme.
  • White Rose Maths: are advising on aspects of mastery teaching and providing insight on Maths Hubs engagement.

In addition, we will be drawing on a wide range of independent experts and organisations to help develop the programme further. We are committed to working with the Centres and their partners to find and champion the excellence that already exists in maths education in the sector, and will be testing this with our experts, sharing the most effective examples with the widest possible audience.

We intend to have all the Centres represented in our outputs through case studies, research reports, conference presentations or other work that demonstrates their continued work to be a space for excellence in maths teaching, and believe that an evidence informed, sector-based approach to this challenge should bring success for all those involved.


If you require any further information about the programme, please do not hesitate to contact CfEM@etfoundation.co.uk for further information.