Smith Review of post-16 maths: what does it say?

20th July 2017 at 12:10
The long-awaited government review of post-16 maths by Sir Adrian Smith has been repeatedly delayed since it was announced by George Osborne

The government-commissioned review of post-16 maths by Professor Sir Adrian Smith has been published today.

The long-awaited report, announced by then chancellor George Osborne in his March 2016 Budget, has been beset by delays.

In the light of the "low GCSE success rates and new GCSE requirements", Sir Adrian calls on the government to "review its 16-18 resit policy with the aim that a greater proportion of students without a grade C or equivalent attain appropriate mathematical understanding by age 18". "Specifically, there should be fresh consideration of appropriate curricula and qualifications for these students and the extent to which current policy incentivises these to be offered," the report adds.

However the government response by schools minister Nick Gibb states: "The current policy will stay in place in 2017/18, but we will continue to monitor and review the current policy to assess whether it is having the desired impact."

Smith Review recommendations in full

  1. The Department for Education should seek to ensure that schools and colleges are able to offer all students on academic routes and potentially students on other level 3 programmes access to a core maths qualification.
  2. The Department for Education and Ofqual should consider how the core maths brand could be strengthened with the aim of improving awareness and take-up of the qualification. 
  3. The Institute for Apprenticeships should work with the Royal Society Advisory Committee on Mathematics Education to ensure appropriate expert advice is available to the panels of professionals developing technical routes. 
  4. The Department for Education should work with UK learned societies to encourage universities to better signal and recognise the value of level 3 mathematics qualifications for entry to undergraduate courses with a significant quantitative element. 
  5. In view of the low GCSE success rates and new GCSE requirements, the Department for Education should review its 16-18 resit policy with the aim that a greater proportion of students without a grade C or equivalent attain appropriate mathematical understanding by age 18. Specifically, there should be fresh consideration of appropriate curricula and qualifications for these students and the extent to which current policy incentivises these to be offered. 
  6. The Department for Education should reconsider the institutional incentives and disincentives arising from the 16-19 funding model for schools and colleges, with a view to removing disincentives for mathematics provision. As an urgent and immediate measure, it should consider increasing the financial incentive for both AS and A level further mathematics within four/five A level programmes and consider providing a funding incentive for student programmes which include core maths. 
  7. The Department for Education should improve the evidence base on the FE workforce teaching mathematics and quantitative skills in order to assess supply, teaching quality and the effectiveness of current recruitment measures. 
  8. The Department for Education should expand its support to develop excellence in GCSE mathematics teaching across the FE sector. This should be informed by evidence of effective pedagogy for students who have not succeeded in the subject within secondary education and emerging evidence about the needs of the workforce.
  9. The Department for Education should continue to fund a central core maths programme until the qualification becomes embedded and enhance this to upskill large numbers of teachers of other quantitative subjects to teach core maths. 
  10. The Department for Education should continue to fund centrally-delivered professional development programmes for teachers of AS/A level mathematics and further mathematics at least at their current level.
  11. The Department for Education, in issuing any new guidance to the independent Director of Fair Access to Higher Education, should continue to encourage universities to support 16-18 mathematics education in the context of access for and success of students from disadvantaged backgrounds.
  12. The Department for Education, in supporting the Prime Minister’s desire for higher education to engage more with schools, should seek ways to encourage universities to consider specialism in 16-18 mathematics if establishing new schools, sponsoring existing schools or providing other support to schools, particularly in local areas where level 3 mathematics participation and achievement is poor. 
  13. The Department for Education should commission and fund interventions in local areas with low level 3 mathematics participation, co- ordinating local work to provide the best training and support for schools and colleges to build capacity at GCSE and level 3. This should include developing partnerships between schools and local and national sources of support.
  14. The Department for Education should seek to improve the evidence base on the role and effectiveness of technology in the teaching of 16-18 mathematics.
  15. The Department for Education, in conjunction with partners such as the Institute for Apprenticeships, should fund online professional development resources and materials aimed at increasing the numbers of teachers of mathematics and quantitative skills within new technical education routes and core maths. 
  16. The Department for Education should commission a study, from pre-school onwards, into the cultural and other root causes of negative attitudes to mathematics, including gender and other sub-group effects. 
  17. The Department for Education should, in any future work to improve careers provision and related advice, prioritise and make clear the importance of mathematics to a wide range of future careers.
  18. The Department for Education and the Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy should commission a study into the long-term implications of the rise of data science as an academic and professional field, looking at skills required for the future and the specific implications for education and training in mathematics and quantitative skills. 

'Reviewing the effectiveness of current policy'

The industrial strategy green paper published in January revealed that emerging evidence from Sir Adrian's report "points to a number of areas where action will need to be taken to improve basic mathematics provision in FE colleges".

These included GCSE resits in English and maths, and the green paper said the government was "reviewing the effectiveness of current policy to help as many young people as possible leave compulsory education with a good standard of maths and English".

On Friday, Tes revealed that changes to GCSE grades and school league tables were expected to lead to tens of thousands more students taking English and maths resits next year.

Stephen Evans, chief executive of the Learning and Work Institute, said: “Learning and Work welcomes professor Smith’s recognition of the important link between numeracy skills and employment and higher earnings... [But] I would have liked to have seen the review, and the government’s response, reinforce the pressing need for more and more accessible maths provision up to level 3."

He added: “Improving access to maths provision up to level 3 for all working age adults would be a helpful contribution in alleviating Britain’s poor basic skills and productivity performance."

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