Friday 15 April 2016

Government considers compulsory maths lessons up to 18

George Osborne wants to make
maths compulsory to the age of 18.
We already discussed plans outlined in the budget to force all schools to become academies by 2020. Another budget announcement was that the government is considering making all pupils study maths to the age of 18.

The move was welcomed by prominent mathematician Marcus du Sautoy, but critics claim it is “undeliverable” because of a critical shortage of maths teachers.

It was one of several education measures outlined by George Osborne in his budget speech, but teachers point out that there are barely enough qualified teachers to deliver GCSE maths in schools, without the extra burden of a course for all 16 to 18 year olds.

The chancellor said, in his budget speech: “We are going to look at teaching maths to 18 for all pupils. Providing great schooling is the single most important thing we can do to help any child from a disadvantaged background succeed."

Currently schools are facing increasing difficulties trying to fill maths posts. Because of this pressure, 20% of maths lessons are taught by teachers without a maths degree. Teacher leaving rates in this subject area are also above average.

The government has called on Prof Sir Adrian Smith, vice chancellor of London University and former president of the Royal Statistical Society, to assess the feasibility of the idea. Presumably he will take into account chronic teacher shortages as one of the factors that may render the scheme impossible.

At the last General Election, the Labour Party called for English and maths to be studied until the age of 18.

The Labour Party's education spokeswoman, Lucy Powell, supported the new proposal but questioned its current viability and criticised the government for failing to achieve its target for recruiting maths teachers four years in a row.

“There is nothing more important to our global competitiveness than mathematics, which will drive success in digital skills, automation and other important jobs of the future,” she said.

There has long been concern about the maths skills of UK children, who fare poorly in international tests. The latest Pisa tests, from 2013, put England in 26th place for maths, behind countries such as Singapore, Taiwan, South Korea and Japan.

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