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On the third Thursday in August, year after year, school students receive their GCSE results. This is a positive experience for many; as they slide open their envelopes and take a cursive glance down the column that reads Grade, smiles germinate across flushed cheeks before these faces turn to their friends, nod, do a little jig, and embrace. 

For many, this will be in recognition that they passed their mathematics GCSE. If you’re reading this, you were likely among them. However, amid the waves of elation, 40% will stand apart, their expressions sombre and silent. They're faced with a tough message: despite over a decade in school and countless hours of study, they haven't made the grade.

The GCSE brand is important: employers, recruiters, and educators all use it to distinguish between prospective candidates for courses and job placements. Thus, while GCSEs develop students’ subject-specific knowledge and skills, perhaps more importantly they signal capability for moving onto the next level of professional and academic life. In the pantheon of requisite qualifications, none are more important than English and Mathematics GCSE. So much so that, for those that do not pass, a long few years await as they are required to resit, potentially again and again and again.

Since 2014, England's education policy has mandated that 16–18-year-olds without a grade 4 in GCSE Mathematics must continue to study the subject. This translates to about 160,000 students annually retaking their maths GCSE. 

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