Teachers are doubtful that the government's Budget pledge to provide £600 for each "additional" student studying maths at A level will leave their schools much better off.
Chancellor Philip Hammond said today in his Autumn Budget that schools will receive the money if they increase the number of students taking A-level maths, A-level further maths or core maths.
More than £80 million would be made available initially, he said.
The method of calculating the number of “additional” pupils has not been confirmed yet and will be worked out with the Department for Education, a Treasury spokeswoman told Tes. The money is expected to be available from 2019.
But it is feared that the number of additional pupils studying maths at A level at each school – and therefore the amount of extra cash available – may be relatively small. This is because maths is already the most popular A-level subject, with 87,679 students sitting the exam in England in 2017.
In addition, it is feared the “tougher” maths GCSE could deter some pupils from continuing the subject.
'Long way away'
Sue Pope, of the Association of Teachers of Mathematics, said: “It is good that there will be extra funds for studying level 3 [A-level equivalent] mathematics – this is consistent with Adrian Smith's review and calls from many in the mathematics education community.
“But 2019 seems a long way away, and if it is just for additional numbers it may not be very much."
She added: “Personally, I would like to see targeted funding to maintain core maths and further mathematics, as they are extremely vulnerable with the current way that post-16 is funded, which means colleges are funded for the equivalent of three A levels per student.
“There is also quite a lot of anecdotal evidence that uptake of post-16 level 3 mathematics this academic year has dropped – what will the government do to help schools recoup uptake at this stage of the academic year?”
The Sixth Form Colleges Association (SFCA) has also said that the investment is welcome, but “does not address the fundamental underfunding of sixth-form education in England”.
And a flash Twitter poll run by Tes found that just under half of respondents thought the additional money would not help boost the numbers of pupils studying maths.
Nick Brook, deputy general secretary of the NAHT headteachers union, said the focus needed to be on recruiting more maths teachers rather than simply encouraging more pupils to study it.
He said: “Schools already appreciate the value and importance of mathematics – this is not the issue. The biggest challenge facing schools is not an unwillingness to promote the virtues of the subject but a shortage of teachers able to teach it.
However, the extra money could prove valuable for core maths, which was introduced in 2014 when it was believed to be offered in just 518 out of 2,476 schools and colleges, according to statistics published by Professor Paul Glaister of Reading University.
Core maths is a qualification for pupils who have achieved a grade C or grade 4 in maths GCSE but do not want to take an A level in the subject. It is equivalent in size to an AS level but expected to be taught over two years.
'Key to jobs'
The extra money for post-16 maths students was one of a number of measures around maths education that the chancellor announced today.
"Knowledge of maths is key to the high-tech, cutting-edge jobs in our digital economy," Mr Hammond said in his Budget speech today.
"But it is also useful in less glamorous roles – such as frontline politics.
"So we’ll expand the Teaching for Mastery of Maths programme to a further 3000 schools.
"We’ll provide £40 million to train maths teachers across the country.
"We’ll introduce a £600 Maths Premium for schools, for every additional pupil who takes A-level or core maths.
"And we’ll invite proposals for new maths schools across England.
"So highly talented young mathematicians can release their potential wherever they live and whatever their background."
And he was optimistic about how his proposals would be received.
The Budget document provides further details.
The Budget commits £18 million to fund an annual £350,000 for every maths school under the specialist maths school model, which includes outreach work.
And the government has said it will test "innovative approaches" to improve GCSE maths resit outcomes by launching a £8.5 million pilot. There has been widespread criticism of the resit policy as success rates are low, with just one in four pupils over 17 achieving a C grade this summer.
The government has also said it will give £40 million to establish Further Education Centres of Excellence across the country to train maths teachers and spread best practice.