A new post-16 qualification in maths would be created under a future Labour government in a bid to encourage more students to study the subject after GCSE, it was announced this week.
The move is an attempt to encourage pupils with B or C grades at GCSE to consider taking the subject in some form when they continue their studies after 16. The plan was put forward by shadow schools minister Kevin Brennan, who said just 16 per cent of pupils with B or C grades go on to study maths at AS level, whereas 80 per cent of those with an A* do.
Mr Brennan said his party was examining a new "interim qualification" as part of its policy review process, which would provide an option to study maths for students who might not want to embark on a full A level in the subject.
"The course could take the form of an entirely new level 3 qualification sitting between GCSE and A level, or it could take the form of an expanded AS-level qualification," Mr Brennan told a conference hosted by the Advisory Committee on Mathematics Education (ACME).
Mr Brennan's comments follow a report issued by ACME on the same day, which stated that tens of thousands of pupils were achieving decent grades in maths, but were being turned off from studying at a higher level.
"Each year there are 250,000-plus students who achieve a grade B or C at GCSE, but who do not, or cannot, take a mathematics course post-16," the report said.
Sybil Cock, a member of ACME and an educational consultant, said she welcomed Labour's plans. "There are other qualifications out there, but the uptake is very low as there are very few incentives for students to take them," Ms Cock said. "What we would like is for universities to demand some sort of maths qualification to study courses such as business studies or geography, where a full A level is not required."