The State of the Nation: Simon’s Story

Yesterday (12th September), the State of the Nation 2023 report was released by The Social Mobility Commission. The report sheds light on the enduring attainment gap that exists between young people from disadvantaged backgrounds and their peers, showing that:

  • In 2021/22, 49.8% of pupils passed GCSE English and maths.

  • 30% of disadvantaged pupils passed in both subjects, compared to 57% of all other pupils.

  • This is a gap of 27.4 percentage points between disadvantaged pupils and their peers.

  • The attainment gap has widened compared to the 2020/21 school year, and is now at its largest since 2011/12

The report also features a case study from Simon, a student Get Further supported at City College Norwich last academic year. Simon’s story illustrates how transformative having a tutor can be for young people who miss out on a pass in English or Maths GCSE at 16.

Simon’s story:

“When I was at high school, I found maths hard. Our class sizes were quite big so the teacher couldn’t tell when I was falling behind. I feel like I didn’t always get things the same way as others in the class. My school had a sixth form, but I decided to go to City College, Norwich, where they do T Levels. I’ve always liked computers, so the T Level in Digital Production, Design and Development looked great. But it turned out that without GCSE maths, I couldn’t go on to do the level 3.   

Maths made me feel kind of nervous and I didn’t like the idea of trying the GCSE all over again, but my school referred me for some free one-to-one tutoring with Get Further. I was a bit worried about having tutoring because I hadn’t done anything like that before. When I had the first call, the tutor told me he was a proper teacher and that we’d have calls every Thursday with either just me or one or 2 others. He asked me how I liked to learn. We worked out that I get it best by going through the course work together and then going away and practicing on my own after the sessions. It was the same tutor every time which was good because it meant he knew my level and how I learn, so it suited me. 

“Sometimes when you don’t get something in a big group setting it just means you need to learn it in a different way, there’s no reason you shouldn’t try again a second time.”

At college, I do my pre-T-Level course 4 days a week, and on my off day I do maths. I can’t progress to the T level without maths. But now I’ve already done half my maths GCSE and I’m on track for a pass. This means I should be able to do level 3 next year. When I finish my T Level, I’ll have learnt all about coding, spreadsheets and cybersecurity and I could work in the field one day, I might even go on to uni to learn more about infrastructure cybersecurity support or I might just go straight into work if I like my placement. 

I can see how much my work has improved quality-wise, not just in maths, since getting the tutor. I feel much more motivated to do well at college now that I know I can. I’d definitely recommend anyone else finding maths hard [to] ask their school about tutoring because I know there are others like me that need maths to do what they want at college. Sometimes when you don’t get something in a big group setting it just means you need to learn it in a different way, there’s no reason you shouldn’t try again a second time.”

On GCSE results day, we were delighted to hear from Simon’s parents, who let us know that he passed his maths with a grade 4. He will now be able to access the T Level in Digital Production, Design and Development. Congratulations to Simon, and thank you to his tutor, Oliver, for his support throughout the year. 

You can read the full report here, with pages 132-140 focused on attainment at age-16, and Simon’s story found on page 138.