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Maths to 18: Focus is shortsighted and must be broader

17 April 2023

Maths Openverse

Responding to Prime Minister Rishi Sunak's speech on maths to 18, Association of Colleges chief executive David Hughes said: “The PM is right that we need a step change in maths teaching and this includes how young people are supported to be more numerate up to 18. But the focus on 16 to 18 alone is shortsighted – we need action from early years through to 16 because our approach is failing too many young people and we need an ambitious plan to support millions of adults to improve their numeracy too.

“DfE figures show only 30% of disadvantaged young people achieve a grade 5 or higher in GCSE maths, compared to 50% overall. This review must aim to close that maths disadvantage divide. The figures for adults are staggering with 12 million struggling with basic levels of numeracy and participation in entry-level maths having plummeted since 2010.

“Three-quarters of 16 to 18 maths is delivered in colleges, so colleges are the crucial partner to delivering maths to 18. Our latest data shows 44% of colleges already struggle to hire enough maths teachers and with teachers in schools currently earning around £8,000 more than those in colleges, it is unlikely that struggle will ease any time soon. School teachers have just rejected an enhanced pay award – yet no similar funding has been made available to colleges even to match that offer.

"College leaders sit down this week with unions representing college staff to discuss next year’s pay award and we know from the outset that Government underfunding means college pay is simply not attractive enough to recruit the staff needed to deliver maths to 18 for all students. At the very least, the Government needs to start treating hardworking teachers and support staff in colleges the same as their colleagues in schools and close the enormous pay gap as quickly as possible.

“The GCSE resit policy has made students feel like they are failures at maths for the past decade and should be reviewed as part of this latest inquiry. We need a motivating maths curriculum, not one which punishes young people."

Notes to editors:

AoC’s Press and PR Manager George Ryan can arrange interviews and spokespeople on this topic. Please call 07780 917858 or email to arrange.

There are 75,000 students taking some form of maths in school sixth forms – mostly A Level maths. Meanwhile, there are 282,000 in colleges – mostly on GCSE maths resits. Therefore around 75% of maths 16 to 18 is delivered in colleges.