'Championing the rights of children'

Labour plans for maths until 18 'best protection' against unemployment

Garry Wed 29 Apr 2015 14:44

Academics and policymakers endorse plans after report finds a quarter of adults in England have maths skills of a 10-year-old.

Labour’s plans to ensure all pupils in England continue to study maths past the age of 16 have been endorsed by leading mathematicians and policymakers, who argued that improved numeracy skills were the “best protection” against unemployment for young people.

Tristram Hunt, the shadow education secretary, said all pupils at school would have to continue to study maths as part of Labour’s proposals, including an estimated 250,000 each year who pass GCSE maths with a C grade or higher but did not go on study maths at A-level.

Currently, only those who failed maths at GCSE or equivalent levels have to continue studying the subject after the age of 16 in order to resit the examinations, which Hunt criticised as “a staggering degree of complacency”.

Recent research by the OECD found that a quarter of adults in England have the maths skills of a 10-year-old, meaning they are only able to manage one-step mathematical tasks such as sorting numbers or reading graphs.

“Our future success as a nation depends on all young people taking maths to 18, so we set the next generation up to succeed in life and work and deliver the skills employers are demanding,” Hunt said, appearing at an event at Bletchley Park alongside Marcus du Sautoy, the professor of mathematics at Oxford University known for his BBC television series popularising maths, including The Code.

“It is essential that everyone is mathematically literate in this scientific age. That’s why ensuring all young people study maths to 18 is so important,” said du Sautoy, who also holds Oxford’s Simonyi chair in the public understanding of science.

“Without the language of maths you are disenfranchised from making critical decisions about risk, the direction of the economy, the future of climate and energy resources and so much more. It doesn’t matter what you end up studying, a sustained mathematical education helps build a logical and analytical approach to solving whatever problem you are wrestling with.”

Read more... (The Guardian - 28 April)