OPINION - Talking Point: Should maths be required until age 18?

Mr Sunak faced both optimism and caution after announcing a requirement for all students to study maths up to the age of 18  (Stefan Rousseau / PA Wire)
Mr Sunak faced both optimism and caution after announcing a requirement for all students to study maths up to the age of 18 (Stefan Rousseau / PA Wire)

Rishi Sunak today announced that all pupils in England will study some form of maths until aged 18 in his New Year speech.

The Prime Minister said that the UK currently remains one of the few countries in the world where numeracy is not required until students reach 18 and that, going forward “our children’s jobs will require more analytical skills”.

He told an audience in Stratford that the move would not necessarily mean imposing a compulsory A-Level for maths on everyone.

Mr Sunak said: “Just imagine what greater numeracy will unlock for people. The skills to feel confident with your finances, to find the best mortgage deal or savings rate, the ability to do your job better and get paid more, and to navigate a changing world.”

Education experts have expressed both enthusiasm and caution about Mr Sunak’s plans. While welcoming the move, they also pointed out that the country is facing a severe shortage of maths teachers, a problem that they say has persisted for several years.

Department for Education figures show that targets for recruiting maths teachers for initial teacher training have not been met in the past four years.

Additionally, research from the National Foundation for Educational Research shows that 45 per cent of schools have some maths classes taught by non-specialist teachers.

Geoff Barton, the general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders, called for the Prime Minister to demonstrate that the plan is grounded in solid research and is not just a “pet project”.

Mr Barton said: “We would want to hear how such a policy would avoid exacerbating the already-chronic national shortage of maths teachers.”

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