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GCSE Mathematics

Volume 533: debated on Monday 17 October 2011

We are reviewing the national curriculum requirements for mathematics and will take decisions on the content and number of maths GCSEs in the light of the review. A pilot of a pair of mathematics GCSEs—applications of mathematics and methods in mathematics —began last September and continues to 2013. Evidence from the pilot will also inform our decisions.

As part of the review, may I urge the Minister to provide an opportunity to include financial education as part of the syllabus?

My hon. Friend has worked tirelessly on financial education, and the all-party group on financial education for young people, which he chairs, is about to produce a report, following its inquiry into the issue. As he has said, financial education is important, and we will look carefully at his report when it is published and its conclusions will be taken into account as part of the national curriculum review and the review of personal, social and health education.

On 19 June, an AQA GCSE maths examination paper contained an error, along with two other exam papers. How could that be, as a week earlier, we were told that every exam paper had been rechecked for mistakes? What has gone wrong, and what explanation has been given to the Minister?

The hon. Gentleman is right to raise these issues. The number of errors in exam papers this summer was unacceptable. A review is being conducted by Ofqual, which will report later in the year. As a consequence of the errors that took place this summer, we have reviewed Ofqual’s powers, and in another place, we are considering introducing into the Education Bill new powers for Ofqual to fine the awarding organisations when they are not delivering high-quality exams without error.

Does the Minister agree that the distinction between methods and applications is spurious in a subject that is all about practice, and that instead we should have mathematics and additional mathematics at GCSE, or pure and applied? That would be more logical and more mathematical.

I pay tribute to my hon. Friend for her passion for the subject of maths education in this country. She is right to raise, and continue to raise, the issue. We will wait to see the outcome of the pilot of the twin maths GCSEs, and we will take into account its conclusions before considering what further reforms to maths GCSE we will make.