What’s the Government doing about school maths?

The present government has an antipathy to overall targets.

It’s difficult to test-compare internationally, because most countries don’t test until a student is 18; however there is a wealth of research comparing maths performance and practice internationally. This was used to develop British government policy and new curriculum and qualifications.


The Government is addressing systemic failures in school and college education:

  1. In March 2015, the OECD Report, which measures the maths performance of 15 year old boys against girls, shows that Britain has one of the biggest gender gaps in maths and science. And, in maths, Britain is ranked 27th out of 40 countries. (Source: BBC TV news/Business/25 March 2015/OECD Pisa rankings.)
  2. 48% of employers are unhappy with the numeracy of school and college leavers, so employers pay £1 Billion a year for remedial charges in English and maths.

(Sources: Confederation of British Industry (CBI) and Pearson Education and Skills survey 2013.)


  1. British standards of maths education are on par with the best in the world
  1. All students have a thorough grasp of key mathematical skills by the end of primary school, and finish secondary education with the skills needed for employment and higher education
  1. The vast majority of students study maths through to the age of 18.
  1. Many more girl students now go on to study STEM courses in higher education.


Primary School

The new maths curriculum.
1. Introduced in September 2014 for all primary and key stage 3 students (up to age 14). This is more challenging and marked at a higher level.
Example: Multiplication tables to 12 X 12, must be learned by age 9.

2. There is greater focus on securing the basics early.
Example: mental and written arithmetic, long division.

3. Calculators will be removed from the test for 11 year olds, to ensure that students get a rigorous grounding in mental and written arithmetic

Secondary school

New, tougher GCSE
The new GCSE is a bigger and more challenging exam than the old GCSE. Schools are expected to increase the amount of time spent teaching: an average of 3 classes per week will increase to 4 or even 5 classes a week. However, teaching time is not mandated by the government.

Post 16 study

1. The national ambition is that by 2020, the vast majority of young people will study maths from age 16 to 18. (Currently Britain has some of the lowest levels of participation in the developed world.)

2. Current students aged 16 without at least a grade C at GCSE in maths and/or English, MUST study from age 16 to 18. The aim should be GCSE, but they can also study for Functional Skills Qualifications.

3. 2015 sees the introduction of new Core Maths qualifications for students aged over 16. This is suitable for those who have at least a grade C but currently don’t intend to carry on studying to A level.

4. New A levels in mathematics and further mathematics are being developed for first teaching in 2017. The first examinations will be in 2019. The new qualifications will be linear and involve more problem solving and mathematical reasoning. The specification has been designed in collaboration with top universities.

Support for maths teacher recruitment

1. ‘Golden hellos’ of up to £10,000 for top graduates who teach maths in colleges and training providers.

2. Increased maths bursaries to £20,000 for trainees with a 2:1 or a first
and £15,000 for trainees with a 2:2

3. The number and the value (to £25,000) of prestigious scholarships has been increased for the highest calibre trainees offered by the Institute of Mathematics.

New maths + Physics Chairs (PhD graduates).

1. High-level academics will get salaries of up to £40,000.

2. Aims to forge more links with business + universities + schools (schools are notoriously poor at engaging business, to make teaching relevant).

3. Increase quality of teaching by adding better subject knowledge.

Support for existing teachers of maths

Maths Hubs
A network of 34 Maths Hubs has been established across the country to support mathematics teachers. The network focus is to develop the teaching of maths as followed in high performing south east Asian countries. The network is also managing a programme to trial Singapore-style maths textbooks in Maths Hub schools. Find out more here.

Shanghai exchange programme (first phase)
1. Shangai is our guide and Shanghai works pragmatically. Shanghai tops international league tables, with pupils three years ahead of British pupils.

2. Two English primary school maths teachers per hub went to selected schools in China in Autumn 2014 to learn Shanghai teaching practices in detail. Translators were provided.

3. Chinese teachers who speak good English were embedded in selected English primary schools for 4 weeks in November 2014.

4. The selected British schools can now transform their practice, to teach as in Shanghai. Outcomes will be evaluated. Hub schools will roll out successful practice across Britain.

5. There will be a secondary phase of the exchange.

National Centre for Excellence in the Teaching of Mathematics (NCETM)
NCETM has the national government contract (with a consortium of MEI, Tribal, MyScience, IoE) to support the professional development of
British maths teachers. Currently NCETM is largely focussed on managing the Maths School Hubs programme, and the Shanghai Exchange. Read more on the NCETM website.

Further Maths Support Programme (FMSP)
• National government contracts (run by MEI) support the uptake of maths and further maths A level. Find out more at furthermaths.co.uk

Core Maths Support Programme (CMSP)
• The National government programme (run by CfBT) manages the introduction of Core Maths qualifications. Find out more at coremaths.org.

Your Life
• A national campaign to promote maths and science careers. Specific focus is on increasing the participation of girls in maths and physics study.
The President of this well organised campaign is Edwina Dunn
Find out more at YourLife.org.uk.

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