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Gove wants new maths variants to boost uptake

Ministers want new "maths for social sciences" and "maths for humanities" qualifications to encourage most sixth-formers to continue studying the subject.

Education secretary Michael Gove said this week: "We should set a new goal for the education system so that within a decade the vast majority of pupils are studying maths right through to the age of 18."

Government sources say they think the ambition can be met through better teacher training and new courses designed to prepare pupils for the growing demand for mathematical skills in a range of university courses.

"Skills like data handling were barely discussed in university history departments 20 years ago," a source said. "Now things like that are becoming more and more important but there is no equivalent course for 16 to 18-year-olds. So you don't learn basic stats, you don't learn basic probability, you don't learning data handling."

Minister believe maths A and AS-levels are too theoretical to help humanities or social sciences students and that the kind of practical alternatives used in other countries should be developed.

Mr Gove pointed to research from the Advisory Committee on Mathematics Education, which showed that in 2009 only 85,000 of 17-year-olds - 13 per cent of the cohort - were still studying maths, a fraction of 330,000 16 to 18-year-olds required by universities.

The Government has already said it will make studying for GCSE maths compulsory for any 16 to 18 year-olds in education without a grade C or above in the subject.

Tweet your views on the Education Bill

Tweeting teachers will be able to contribute to the debate in the House of Lords on the Education Bill. Lord Lucas, editor of The Good Schools Guide, said he would be watching the Twitter hashtag #educationbill and hoped to feed in views from the "indubitably few but most admirable teachers" watching the debates live online. The committee-stage debates are due to take place on Tuesdays and Thursdays until 19 July and can be watched at www.parliamentlive.tv.

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