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Post-16 Education

Volume 627: debated on Thursday 20 July 2017

Today the Government are publishing Professor Sir Adrian Smith’s authoritative and wide-ranging review of 16 to 18 mathematics education in England.

The Government are determined to give all young people the world-class education they need to fulfil their potential. This includes providing opportunities to develop the mathematical and quantitative knowledge and skills appropriate to their chosen careers. In an increasingly technological world this will be vital to ensuring that our future workforce will be productive and competitive in the global marketplace.

Sir Adrian Smith’s review identifies a strong economic and social mobility case for raising participation in post-16 mathematics and improving knowledge and skills at all levels. He presents clear evidence for the value of mathematical and quantitative skills to students, whichever route they take.

The report includes recommendations and challenges that are wide-ranging—for example, the need to address negative cultural perceptions of mathematics. These issues will require detailed engagement and action between Government, industry, universities, schools and colleges.

I have today written to Sir Adrian thanking him for the review and confirming that the Government will set out our plans across the range of Sir Adrian’s recommendations in due course. The letter confirms that work is already under way to address a number of the challenges highlighted in the report, and there are a number of recommendations where we have been able to take immediate action.

We agree with Sir Adrian that we must be ambitious and take greater action to encourage and support more young people to choose mathematics post-16, particularly in areas where take-up is low. That is why one of the immediate actions we are taking today is to announce a new £16 million level 3 maths support programme. It will build on the momentum created by the further mathematics and core maths support programmes, and will work with schools and colleges to improve mathematics education by sharing best practice, and delivering knowledge-rich curriculum materials, as well as working to increase participation and attainment in 16 to 18 mathematics. The programme will work to deliver focused intervention targeted to those who need it most.

The other immediate actions we have taken in response to Sir Adrian’s recommendations are set out in my letter. For example, taking forward work on the new T-level qualifications to ensure they include mathematics where employers identify this as a requirement for employment; working with the newly constituted Royal Society Advisory Committee on Mathematics Education to ensure appropriate expert advice. We are also working with institutions such as the Royal Society and British Academy to encourage universities and employers to signal the value of level 3 mathematics qualifications for entry to undergraduate courses with a significant quantitative element and for a wide range of job roles.

We have placed a copy of Sir Adrian’s report and our letter in the Libraries of both Houses and on the Government’s website.