Government renews call to universities to set up post-16 maths schools

Maths is one the most in-demand skills in the labour market and the most popular subject at A level, research shows.

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The government has renewed its attempt to drive up standards in maths with incentives announced today for universities to set up specialist post-16 maths schools.

School standards minister Nick Gibb said top universities could now apply to open schools to help more young people learn from the best mathematicians in the country.

The move follows a similar drive in 2011 which was expected to deliver a network of up to 16 specialist maths schools around England. However, just over a year later only two universities had set up schools.

Mr Gibb praised King’s College London and the University of Exeter where, last year, the rate of pupils achieving grade A or A* in A-level maths was 98 per cent and 75 per cent respectively.

He said: “The success of existing maths schools shows the value of tapping into the expertise of our world-class universities.

“We now want more institutions to follow the lead of King’s and Exeter and help our most talented students, regardless of background and gender.”

Maths is most popular A-level subject

The subject is one of the most in-demand skills in the labour market and it is already the most popular subject at A level, with almost 25 per cent of students choosing to study it, according to the Sir Adrian Smith review.

Through its industrial strategy, the government is now providing £350,000 in dedicated funding each year to existing and future schools to support outreach work with local schools and colleges in which academics will share specialist skills, help raise standards and get more children studying maths.

Minister for the school system Lord Theodore Agnew said: “I recently visited King’s maths school and was humbled by the students I met there – their ambition and ability is inspiring. These innovative schools are giving the mathematicians of tomorrow – many from disadvantaged backgrounds – the opportunity to take their talents to the next level.

“We want more leading universities to open these schools and help encourage more young people across the country to study maths at A level and beyond.”

It was said in 2011 that the maths schools would be loosely based on the Russian model, which linked schools with universities, such as the Kolmogorov maths school, which is part of Moscow State University. The Russian school was named after the famous mathematician Andrei Kolmogorov, and produced some of the best mathematical minds in the country taught by university academics.

Cambridge Mathematics School is due to open in 2020.  It will be led by Cambridgeshire Educational Trust in partnership with St John’s College, Cambridge.

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