Rishi Sunak will today (MON) vow to end Britain’s “anti-maths mindset” to help grow the economy. The Prime Minister wants pupils to study some form of the subject up to the age of 18 to stop children being put at a disadvantage. In a speech in north London on Monday, he will insist the sense that it is “ok to be bad at maths” must end.
Mr Sunak will tell an audience of students, teachers, education experts and business leaders: “We’ve got to change this anti-maths mindset. We’ve got to start prizing numeracy for what it is – a key skill every bit as essential as reading.
“I won’t sit back and allow this cultural sense that it’s OK to be bad at maths to put our children at a disadvantage.
“My campaign to transform our national approach to maths is not some nice-to-have. It’s about changing how we value maths in this country”.
The UK remains one of the only countries in the world that does not require children to study maths in some form up to the age of 18, making it one of the least numerate among the 38 OECD advanced economies.
Around a third of pupils fail to pass GCSE maths, and more than eight million adults have numeracy skills below those expected of a nine-year-old, according to Downing Street.
The Prime Minister will argue that maths attainment will help young people in their careers and grow the economy.
“We simply cannot allow poor numeracy to cost our economy tens of billions a year or to leave people twice as likely to be unemployed as those with competent numeracy.
“We have to fundamentally change our education system so it gives our young people the knowledge and skills they need – and that our businesses need – to compete with the best in the world.”
Teachers and education experts have warned the policy does not address major problems in the wider education system, including the already severe shortage of maths teachers.
Mr Sunak will say the change will not happen “overnight”, with an advisory group including mathematicians, education leaders and business representatives to be formed to advise the Government.
The review will look at what core maths content students will be required to study, and whether a new maths qualification will be needed.
Mr Sunak will say: “We’ll need to recruit and train the maths teachers. We’ll need to work out how to harness technology to support them.
“And we’ll need to make sure this maths is additional to other subjects – not instead of them.
“But we are taking the first step today by identifying the maths content that will give our 16 to 18-year-olds the skills they need to get on in life.”
Geoff Barton, general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders, said that instead of “re-announcing a vague and poorly thought-out policy”, Mr Sunak should focus on resolving the pay dispute which has triggered industrial action.
“It is hard to understand why the Prime Minister is rehashing his ambition of maths to 18 having only announced this policy in January and with no further detail of what it will entail or how it will be delivered.”