Prime Minister Rishi Sunak has announced a plan to require pupils in England to keep learning maths up to the age of 18. The ambition is the PM’s first major intervention in education since entering office. It reflects his mission to ensure that more children leave school with the right skills in numeracy and literacy.
Currently, only around half of 16-19-year-olds study maths at all - and this figure includes pupils taking science courses and those who are already sitting compulsory maths GCSE resits in college.
In the past, maths has been a subject that was only useful for those who wanted to work in a technical field. But now, maths is needed everywhere – in boardrooms and hospitals, construction sites to marketing departments.
The importance of teaching maths
In a world where data is everywhere and statistics underpin every job, the jobs of the future will need more analytical skills than before. The government believes that teaching maths to the age of 18 will equip young people with the quantitative and statistical skills that they will need for the jobs of today and the future.
Maths vital for the future of jobs
Maths is not just for scientists and engineers anymore – everyone in today’s world needs to understand mathematics concepts. The jobs of 2025 have maths at their core. The jobs of the future will be more specialised in areas such as computing, mathematics, architecture and engineering.
Complex problem-solving, reasoning, and ideation as well as technology design and programming are among the top 10 skills needed for the job market in 2025. This is according to the World Economic Forum’s Future of Jobs Report.
The UK remains one of the only countries in the world where children do not study some form of maths up to the age of 18. This includes the majority of OECD countries, including Australia, Canada, France, Germany, Finland, Japan, Norway, and the USA.
Are there enough maths teachers?
Many working within education worry that years of recruitment failures could scupper the current plan. Department for Education (DfE) figures show targets for recruiting maths teachers into Initial Teacher Training (ITT) have not been met for several years. Just 65% of the maths teacher target was met for 2019/20, followed by 84% for 2020/2021, 90% for 2021/2022 and 2022/2023.
The need for more maths teachers
Labour said it would be "an empty pledge" if they could not recruit more maths teachers. An article published in TES magazine in November 2022 revealed that half of schools use non-specialist maths teachers. To tie in with this latest initiative, there are no details about how more maths teachers would be recruited.
The government acknowledges the plan would not be possible to implement before 2025, but work on the plan is expected to take place sooner. The latest plan is the PM’s first major intervention in education since entering office. It reflects his mission to ensure that school leavers have the right skills in numeracy and literacy.