Lots has been written about the changes and with all the “hullaballoo” over the SAMs it seems apt to be able to document a definitive list (from my perspective) of the changes to content over the next 4 blog posts (this is 1 of 4) – the intention is that where there are significant changes I’ll do a blog post about each of the specific topics over time.

The changes can be split into 4 categories – where I’ve shown the “topic areas” below its not exclusively these areas but they form the majority of the changes.

  • Omitted topics – this doesn’t mean we don’t teach them anymore as they could be essential prior knowledge for a subsequent topic – they just won’t be examined – or they could be a topic that is now part of the key stage 3 programme of study.
  • New to both tiers – mainly ratio, proportion and rates of change.
  • New to higher tier only – mainly algebra topics.
  • New to foundation tier only – this is by far and away, the largest change. There has been a massive shift in content downwards from the higher tier mainly in algebra, geometry and measure and ratio and proportion.

Omitted Topics

These are essentially topics that are what most of us are calling “assumed prior knowledge” in that they are stepping stones to other topics and will (in the ideal) world have been taught at some point – most should form part of your key stage 3 teaching. The crux is that they won’t be explicitly tested in an exam at KS4.

  • Writing numbers into words and words into numbers.
  • Recognise odd and even numbers (could appear as part of a question about sequences!)
  • Trial & improvement. I would still teach this as a problem solving strategy – maybe not to the point of the “final trial” but definitely to attempt to see if your solution is in the expected range for some topics. We’re actually removing this from our Top 40 but will leave all the resources etc at JustMathsOnline for those of you that are like-minded. NOTE: Trial and improvement in terms of the iterative method is being introduced and will be mentioned in one of the later posts.
  • Tessellations. Being able to “understand tessellations of regular and irregular polygons and tessellate combinations of polygons” along with being able to explain why “some shapes tessellate and why other shapes do not” won’t be explicitly tested but they could be asked about shapes “fitting together” without using the word “tessellate”. This is something I will continue to teach as I think it’s a great introduction to interior and exterior angles at key stage 3 and I’m not hiding from the use of the word because someone says it’s not on a test.
  • Use isometric grids. A lovely topic for students at key stage three but don’t be expecting to see those questions asking students to draw cuboids on an isometric grid – “Drawing 3D shapes in 2D” has gone from the programme of study (POS) from the Dfe but is (sort-of) part of earlier key stage programmes of study (its not very explicit!) – note that plans and elevations in the form of “construct and interpret plans and elevations of 3D shapes” remains so you could argue that isometric drawing is part of this … not sure what I think. OK … I do know …  It’s definitely a topic I’ll do at key stage three but not any later getting my multi-link cubes out is always fun! I know that I wouldn’t do it at the same time as plans and elevations (it does, in my opinion “muddy the waters” and overcomplicates  teaching of plans and elevations) … hey ho! just my view.
  • Converting between metric and imperial measures and knowing rough metric equivalents of pounds, feet, miles, pints and gallons. Yet another good topic that I feel gives students skills for real-life … ask them how tall they are and most students will give you measurements in feet and inches!

Basically the GCSE focuses more on using and interpreting statistics rather than collecting data and so both of the below are omitted:

  • The data collection cycle; i.e. specifying the problem and deciding what data to collect, what statistical analysis is needed and then collecting data from a variety of suitable primary and secondary sources is no longer included at GCSE. Not sure how I feel about this as I think it adds to understanding when students understand where the data that is used for statistical analysis comes from.
  • Questionnaires in terms of criticising and designing questions for a questionnaire are also excluded. Again another nice topic at key stage 3. Another topic that we’re removing from our Top 40 but will leave all the resources etc at JustMathsOnline for those of you that are like-minded.


  • 3-D coordinates and identifying coordinates of vertexes using other geometrical information will also no longer be examined at higher tier (it’s not on the current foundation tier) HOWEVER with Pythagoras and trigonometry in 3-D being prevalent I like to introduce these topics using 3-D coordinates so will still include these at some point with some groups – especially at the top end where its useful (and fun!) for them to understand the concept of a third axis.
  • Certain types of transformations of functions – specifically rotations and enlargements – are gone. As a topic I dislike teaching I say yay!!

Hope the above helps and if I’ve missed anything please do let me know …

In the words of Arnie … “I’ll be back with parts 2,3 and 4 soon” … ok so Arnie would just say “I’ll be back!”


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