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Cash boost to tempt 'brightest and the best' to teach maths in FE colleges

The government is setting aside up to £20 million to encourage the “brightest and the best” to teach maths in FE colleges in England, it has been announced.

Skills minister Matthew Hancock said a raft of new funding will be available to support both graduates and colleges in three new schemes. It is hoped that these will lead to the recruitment of more than 500 specialist maths teachers by September 2015. 

The first is a "Golden Hello"; a £7,500 bonus for graduates teaching maths in FE, paid in the second year of their teaching and rising to £10,000 if they train to support students with special educational needs.

There is also a recruitment incentive scheme, which involves a bonus payment of £20,000 to colleges and training providers who recruit a specialist graduate maths teacher, or £30,000 for those who share their expertise with other nearby institutions.

Finally, the "subject knowledge enhancement" scheme will help highly qualified graduates who have the skills to teach to develop specific maths skills before they start teacher training.

Mr Hancock called maths an “essential foundation” for any career. “Attracting the brightest and best graduates to teach in maths in further education will help ensure learners get the educational grounding they need,” he said.

David Russell, chief executive of the Education and Training Foundation, which will manage the recruitment incentive scheme, welcomed the “serious investment” from the government and said maths was a “vital vocational skill”.

New funding rules mean colleges that recruit students without at least a grade C in GCSE maths are required to ensure that they are working towards attaining these qualifications.

From September, providers that fail to do so will see all of their funding withdrawn for every student who misses out. But the Association of Colleges (AoC) estimates that there is currently a shortfall of around 1,200 maths teachers across colleges and schools in the post 16 sector.

Joy Mercer, director of policy at the AoC, welcomed the “significant and positive investment”, but warned that it cannot be short term.

“We don’t get this sort of investment very often,” she said. “It will help with some of the immediate capacity but it has to be balanced against the erosion of funding for colleges, and specifically the recent reduction in funding for 18-year-olds.

“We really need this sort of funding year after year.”

Ms Mercer also warned that “fresh-faced” graduates might not be the best people to teach maths to those college students who have already failed the subject at school.

“For that you might need experienced specialists who know how to deal with those demotivated students,” she added.

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