"Why we must make maths compulsory to 18 for all students"

5th July 2013 at 01:00
Labour's Shadow Schools Minister on the importance of maths

Merely papering over the cracks will not reinforce the structure of a house. Michael Gove believes that throwing money at rebranding schools is all that is needed to improve educational standards in this country. He is wrong. What he has continuously failed to do is listen to anyone but his right wing friends, and has therefore neglected what is really required for raising standards.One such requirement is maths to age 18.

Yesterday the Sutton Trust released its report The Employment Equation which studied what skills children need in order to prepare for the workplace. It confirmed that mathematics is essential for success.

Currently only 20 per cent of children in the UK study maths until 18 - this is wrong. In countries such as Germany, the US and Hong Kong this percentage is 80 per cent. In our culture we consider it embarrassing to be illiterate, but we are happy to say that they cannot do basic maths. We cannot expect to ever compete internationally while maths remains the poor cousin. Each year there are more than a quarter of a million students who achieve a grade B or C at GCSE, but who do not, or cannot, take AS-level mathematics.

Schooling should help to prepare children for the challenges they will face in their adult lives. The approach towards education across the world has evolved, with many of the highest performing countries, including Finland, Hong Kong and Singapore, all recognising the importance of curricula that develop children as people and teach them skills that they can use once they have reached adulthood.

Labour has used its policy review process to consider how maths standards can be raised.We propose that all children should continue with the subject throughout their school career or college career to 18. Labour's Skills Taskforce is considering how best to deliver maths to 18 and ensure all young people gain and maintain skills in this crucial subject up to 18.

Work by KingsCollege, London, quoted by the Sutton Trust, clearly outlines the case for the extension of maths beyond 16, and how this is essential to an individual's financial wellbeing. The report argues that being able to estimate and measure is a life skill that many people are lacking. So the next Labour government will make sure that all children study maths until 18.


Kevin Brennan MP is Labour's Shadow Schools Minister

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