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Mathematics Teachers

Volume 982: debated on Tuesday 1 April 1980

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asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science what percentage of mathematics teachers in secondary schools have mathematics degrees; and how this compares with 10 years ago.

The 1977 survey of secondary school staffing in England and Wales, which is the latest date for which such information is available to my Department, showed that 26 per cent. of mathematics teachers had degrees or equivalent, with mathematics as the main subject. A further 45 per cent. had studied mathematics at university or in other higher education. Comparable figures for 10 years ago are not available, but results from a survey in 1965 suggest that the corresponding figures then were roughly 15 and 30 per cent.

Does my hon. Friend feel that the figure of 26 per cent. is low, bearing in mind the results of a report published this morning, which showed that a considerable proportion of mathematics teachers were unable to teach mathematics to A-level, and that an unacceptable proportion of them were incapable of teaching mathematics to O-level? Does he feel that the Department of Education and Science should take much greater action to ensure that that figure of 26 per cent. is increased?

I am certainly sympathetic to those matters. No one could fail to be disquieted by what has occurred during the past 10 or 15 years. However, perhaps I can reassure my hon. Friend. The figures that I quoted were from the 1977 survey. It is our intention to monitor this aspect annually, and that has begun. Over the past few months we have brought to the attention of the agencies involved the importance that should be attached to this subject.

Is it not the fact that the main problem has nothing to do with mathematics graduates but is due to the fact that many schools have gone over exclusively to so-called "modern mathematics" and eliminated the more traditional mathematicians? That may be all right for children who wish to become mathematicians, but it is no good for those who will leave school at 16 or 18.

The hon. Member may have a point. However, the question relates to the supply of teachers of this subject. I do not want to be drawn down the path of standards and differentials of teaching.