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expert reaction to the announcement by Rishi Sunak that maths will be made compulsory for pupils in England until age 18

The Prime Minister Rishi Sunak announced plans today to ensure all pupils in England study maths in some form until the age of 18.


Stian Westlake, Chief Executive, Royal Statistical Society, said:

“The promise to teach some maths to all pupils in England up to the age of 18 is an important and worthwhile statement of ambition. Numeracy, statistical literacy and the ability to make sense of data are becoming more and more important in all walks of life, and it makes sense to give all young people a chance to develop these skills. The plan will require reform and investment, especially in training new maths teachers, as former RSS president Sir Adrian Smith observed in his 2017 review of post-16 maths education. We look forward to seeing how these measures will be put in place and to supporting the plan.”


Sir Adrian Smith PRS, President, Royal Society, said:

“Maths, data, statistics and numeracy are essential skills for a modern world, whether for the workplace or for playing an active role in society. If we want our economy to thrive and young people to be prepared for well paid jobs, we need a radical overhaul of our education system that will include all young people doing some level of maths to 18 years of age. The PM understands this and today’s announcement is welcome.

“While we have some elements in place to increase maths and data skills, we need to upgrade the post-16 approach as part of wider reform at secondary and post-16. It is time for a baccalaureate style system that will give a broader education than the exceptionally narrow A-levels.

“Radical reform of the education system will not be easy and will take time, but we need to get started now and build a cross party approach with support from teachers, students, parents and employers. This matters too much to be a political football that could be punctured by the ebb and flow of politics.”


Tom Grinyer, CEO, Institute of Physics, said:

“Maths is a foundational subject for science, develops skills crucial for the economy of the future and if supported properly can provide young people, from all backgrounds, with opportunities to prosper and transform their world.

“Increasing the number of students choosing maths and numerate studies, including physics, is welcome. But any plan needs to also address the shortage of maths and science teachers and provide real support to young people from underrepresented backgrounds to both feel these subjects are a good fit and to do well in them. Simply mandating compulsory maths until 18 is not enough in itself without the appropriate number of teachers, infrastructure and support.”



Declared interests

The nature of this story means everyone quoted above could be perceived to have a stake in it. As such, our policy is not to ask for interests to be declared – instead, they are implicit in each person’s affiliation.

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