The RSS welcomes the long-awaited publication of a review of mathematics education for post-16 students in England, conducted and published by RSS past president, Professor Sir Adrian Smith.
The review was commissioned to address the increasing need for mathematical skills in the workforce in an education system that currently sees a comparatively low percentage of students continuing mathematical study post-16.
Adrian Smith makes a number of recommendations that concur with those made by the RSS in our contribution to the review (PDF), such as supporting a range of qualifications in maths for those who don't take it up at A level. ‘A singular mathematics pathway will not meet all needs,’ the review acknowledges, noting that the new Core Maths qualification will require 'significant numbers of teachers, including specialists in other quantitative subjects' to teach it. The review also recognises A level Statistics (which was brought back from the brink of being scrapped last year) as 'an essential part of the mix' that is 'likely to be important in the future’.
On the publication of the Review, RSS president David Spiegelhalter, commented: ‘In particular, we are pleased about the emphasis on the importance of statistics at A level, acknowledging the rise of data science, and boosting the take-up of core maths.’
Nick Gibb, Minister of State for school standards, responded positively to the review and announced a £16 million Level 3 Maths Support Programme to help schools deliver Core Maths and A level mathematics and further mathematics.
RSS vice-president for education, Neil Sheldon, said the government’s response was ‘encouraging’, and hopes it will give prompt consideration to the review's recommendations of financial incentives for AS, A level further mathematics and core maths; interventions in local areas with low level 3 mathematics participation; and specific activity to support and improve teacher skills. ‘This is to ensure that all students, in whatever setting or location, are able to access a range of pathways to develop their number and data skills,’ he added.
The RSS has written to Nick Gibb (PDF) in support the review’s recommendations and asks for a timetable to be set out for implementation. We have also volunteered to assist in any studies the government might carry out into the long-term implications of data science on future skills needs (as recommended in Sir Adrian’s review).