The Advisory Committee for Mathematics Education (ACME) has published two reports with recommendations on how to increase the uptake for mathematics in England for all pupils post-16.
The first report, ‘Post-16 Mathematics’, provides an overview of how the current system needs to change. The second, ‘Planning for Success’, describes practical steps that will need to take place in order for this to happen.
‘Post-16 Mathematics’ recommends that a new ‘problem solving’ based maths qualification should be distinct from A level maths and taken by those not studying maths at advanced level. It recommends that the new qualification be studied over two years but contain less work than an A level with an emphasis on solving realistic problems. ‘The key goal for any new post-16 qualifications in mathematics should be to develop […] an understanding of mathematics through motivation and engagement,’ the report states in its executive summary. ‘This is more likely to be achieved if the qualifications concentrate on using mathematics to develop and solve problems in realistic contexts.’
ACME recommends that A and AS levels should still be clearly seen as the route into advanced study of maths and science. It also recommends that the mathematical content of other qualifications be raised to show how maths is applied in different contexts.
The Committee is keen to emphasise the importance of getting employers and universities ‘on side’ when the new qualification is introduced. ‘We are convinced that dramatically increasing participation in mathematics for these students will not happen without some form of accountability ‘stick’,’ said ACME chair Stephen Sparks. ‘ACME is convinced that a number of approaches will be required to change behaviours.’
One of the practical approaches recommended in ACME’s second report, ‘Planning for Success’ proposes holding discussions with university admissions service UCAS and universities to encourage admissions tutors to make the new qualification a requirement for certain courses.
ACME also articulated the key role that learned societies such as the RSS should play in implementing the new qualification. ‘ACME and DfE [the Department for Education] should jointly monitor progress with the strategy and intervene when necessary,’ it said. ‘Higher education, learned societies, employers and teachers should be engaged in this process.’
Roeland Beerten, director of professional and public affairs at the RSS said: ‘We welcome the ACME recommendation to develop a qualification which should have significant statistical content. Statistics is a key component in every day numerical problem solving, and it is essential we equip all pupils with the statistical skills necessary to successfully move into employment or higher education.
‘The RSS will be a key stakeholder in the development of such a qualification and we will be working with relevant bodies to promote and implement this recommendation.’