Family & Education

Does sixthform maths plan add up?

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak believes it critical that children study maths for longer - but heads query whether there are enough teachers


Britain's Prime Minister Rishi Sunak delivers a speech about mathematics, on ending the "anti-maths mindset" to boost economic growth, during a visit at the London Screen Academy (LSA), in London in London, on April 17, 2023. (Photo by Kirsty Wigglesworth / POOL / AFP) (Photo by KIRSTY WIGGLESWORTH/POOL/AFP via Getty Images)

Jewish school heads have echoed concerns about the feasibility of the government’s plan to introduce compulsory maths for sixth-formers.

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak says the move is necessary to challenge an “anti-maths mindset” in the country and better equip children with future workplace skills.

Hannele Reece, head of King Solomon High School, felt the biggest issue arose over whether there would be enough staff.

“It has always been difficult to get people into maths teaching and the current acute teacher shortages mean this would be even more difficult.

“Additionally, would national funding be provided or would this be yet another erosion of school budgets?  I think if those hurdles were overcome there would also need to be careful thought in terms of what, if any qualification would be gained.

“It has to mean something to the students and it would need to balance the challenge of pushing students even harder without affecting their mental health.”

JFS head David Moody said, "There is a chronic shortage of maths teachers in the country. We are fortunate enough to be fully staffed with subject specialists at the moment, but it always feels a tightrope, and until national recruitment issues are addressed, it is difficult to imagine how these plans will work in reality.”

Spencer Lewis, executive head of Yavneh College, said: “I think that it is important that students leave school with the highest standard of education in all subjects, certainly in literacy and numeracy. However, making anything compulsory post-16 will need to come with a firm plan and financial backing including the training and retention of teachers in far greater numbers ­— this is already a cause for concern.”

Over the past few years, the government has fallen short in its recruitment of maths teacher, although it has meet 90 per cent of its target in the past two years.

Andrew McClusky, executive head of the Hasmonean Multi-Academy Trust, said, “We would like students to be as highly skilled as possible when they enter the working world whatever their chosen subjects.

“Attracting a sufficient number of strong maths teachers into the profession would be an excellent starting point for the Prime Minister’s ambitious plans to improve students’ mathematical skills.”

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