Raising the compulsory age of studying maths

This week, UK Prime minister Rishi Sunak announced plans to introduce a strategy which, if implemented, will see all students in the UK having to study Maths until the age of 18.

The Prime minister went on to say, "In a world where data is everywhere and statistics underpin every job, letting our children out into that world without those skills is letting our children down,"
He said he wanted people to have the skills they needed "to feel confident" with finances and things like mortgage deals.

Whilst students already study Maths to the age of 18 if they do not achieve a GCSE grade 4 (formerly a Grade C) at the end of Year 11, Maths is optional otherwise.

The Prime minister’s proposal does not seem to suggest any new qualifications will be implemented and with no plans to make A levels compulsory. The concept appears to be a goal rather than a fully formed policy, with no details on how it might operate.

Math teacher shortage
There has been criticism of this plan from several different sources, the Liberal democrat education spokesperson Munira Wilson argues that "Too many children are being left behind when it comes to maths, and that happens well before they reach 16."

Labour’s education secretary Bridget Phillipson highlighted the shortage of maths teachers "He cannot deliver this reheated, empty pledge without more maths teachers, yet the government has missed their target for new maths teachers year after year," she said:
With a shortage of Maths teachers in the UK, it is unclear how the UK government plans to resource this move.

The Association of School and College Leaders said there was a "severe shortage of maths teachers", and that the plan was "therefore currently unachievable".

In 2021, there were 35,771 maths teachers in state secondary schools in England. There were more English teachers (39,000) and science teachers (45,000).

Maths teacher numbers are 9% higher than in 2012, but shortages have been reported across the UK.

A survey of secondary schools in England by the National Foundation for Educational Research found that 45% of respondents used non-specialist teachers to deliver some maths lessons in 2021.

Importance of Early Intervention
Is extending learning the way forward? or does the government need to consider early intervention as a method for developing better maths skills?

A report was written in November 2022 by the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics states:

‘Early childhood is an important and vulnerable time; these years lay the foundation for a child’s mathematical journey. High-quality early mathematics experiences have a long-lasting impact, serving as a catalyst for children’s later success in life. These beginning exposures to mathematics send powerful messages about who and what is valued. More so, experiencing mathematics in ways where children see themselves as important provides foundations for the kinds of relationships they develop with mathematics and the emergence of their mathematical identities (Boaler 2014). In fact, children’s early mathematical knowledge serves as a predictor of later mathematics success and their college and career opportunities (Shah et al. 2018; Watts et al. 2014).’

National attainment was notably down from 2019
We can also see from the recent SATs results in 2022 that early intervention is essential in Maths as we are seeing results go down in primary school-aged students.

Let’s start by looking at the national picture for SATs 2022.
74% of pupils met the expected standard in reading, up by 1% from 73% in 2019.
• 71% of pupils met the expected standard in maths, down by 8% from 79% in 2019.

The idea that the current education system may not effectively be preparing students for the challenges of the real world, and the Prime Minister's proposal to require students to study Maths until the age of 18 is an attempt to address this issue. However, with a shortage of Maths teachers in the UK and a lack of details on how the proposal will be implemented, it's uncertain if this will be the solution.

Understanding how to help children
It's important to understand that the root of the problem is not simply that students do not like Maths, it's that they are not understanding the concepts. Many students struggle with problem-solving, which has become increasingly important in the GCSE curriculum, and this lack of understanding can lead to a lack of confidence and a dislike for the subject.

At our Kip McGrath Centres, we understand the importance of early intervention and we strive to provide students with the necessary tools and skills to succeed in Maths and English. We believe that with the right support, students can not only develop a love for Maths but also excel in the subject.

If you're concerned about your child's progress in Maths and English, book a free assessment today. Our experienced and qualified teachers will be able to assess your child's needs and provide a tailored programme to support their learning and development.

Published in UK