Economy put at risk by maths crisis

27th February 2004 at 00:00
The "crisis" in school maths teaching could put Britain's economy at risk, a leading commentator suggested this week.

The warning from Simon Singh, broadcaster and author of Fermat's Last Theorem, echoes a similarly grave message from the Government's own 15-month review of the teaching of the subject in secondary schools.

Writing in The TES, Mr Singh said: "Sooner or later there will be a time when our decline in mathematics is so dire that it will seriously harm Britain's economy."

He said there was a danger that ministers would now just "tinker" with the curriculum instead of tackling teacher shortages.

"Somebody needs to find out why so few people are applying to become maths teachers and why so many are leaving the profession. And then somebody needs to take ultimate responsibility for reversing the situation," he said.

Professor Adrian Smith, the leader of the Government inquiry, highlighted bungled exam reforms and continuing teacher shortages in an indictment of government failings over the past 20 years.

His report, published on Tuesday, said maths exams were not motivating many pupils and highlighted a 15 per cent drop in numbers taking the subject at A-level in the past three years. One in four of those teaching the subject was not properly qualified, the inquiry estimated. Professor Smith said that high-grade GCSE passes, or even A grade A-levels, were no guarantee that young people possessed the skills required by employers and universities.

Growing shortages of well-qualified maths graduates could result in more software firms moving to India, while manufacturing and the pharmaceutical industry could also suffer.

News 8; International 20; Leader 22

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