Cambridge University funded to offer A-level maths help

Calculator The government is shaking up A-levels

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Cambridge University has been given nearly £3m funding for a project the government says will pave the way for a more rigorous maths A-level in England.

Education Secretary Michael Gove says the university will be "deeply engaged in developing a new maths curriculum".

Cambridge says its new programme will give resources and support to maths teachers and students.

But the university has denied reports it will go on to set papers for a new maths A-level.

Mr Gove wants to shake up A-levels in England and for universities to be closely involved with this.

Many universities are already involved with the exam boards that set papers, sitting on advisory panels for example.

But as a group they say they are against universities "owning" qualifications.

It is understood they also dislike what they say is the idea of the government "cherry-picking" institutions to be behind exams and the curriculum for particular subjects.

England's public exam system is going through the biggest changes for a generation.

Under plans out for consultation, England's A-levels could change for students starting courses as early as next year, with proposals to end their modular nature so that all exams are taken only at the end of two years.

Changes to GCSEs have just been brought in for students who started courses this autumn, again the main change being that most exams are taken after two years, instead of "in chunks" over the two years. In some cases, course content has been beefed up.

'New curriculum'

Mr Gove said: "It is very exciting that one of the most important and respected university departments in the world will become deeply engaged with developing a new mathematics curriculum. Too many children in state schools do not have access to excellent teaching and materials.

"This project will raise standards, raise ambition, and spread specialist knowledge about teaching advanced mathematics throughout the school system.

"The reputation of A-level maths will be restored and more pupils will be able to progress to more advanced studies. I hope that we can develop similar projects with other university departments."

Cambridge University's website sets out details of the Maths Education Programme , saying it will receive £2.8 million from the Department for Education for the project.

It says: "The programme will seek to reconsider and rethink how changes in our understanding of maths impact on the mathematics which is studied at school level.

"It will provide rich resources for advanced post-16 mathematics which will augment and support current teaching, be published online and be freely accessible to all."

But a university spokesman added that the scheme was about supplying resources - not setting exams.

Ownership

Recently, university leaders as a group released their formal response to the consultation on A-level changes, saying while they wanted to stay closely involved with the development of A-levels, they did not want to take them over.

Nicola Dandridge, chief executive of Universities UK, said: "Universities have an important role to play in developing A-level curriculum and in ensuring that A-level content supports progression to higher education.

"University academics and staff are already extensively engaged in this way and have been working with the awarding organisations for many years.

"This programme by the University of Cambridge is an excellent example of how the sector is engaging with A-level development.

"In Ofqual's recent consultation on A-level reform, we have expressed concern about the specific proposal that universities take over ownership of A-level content development and assessment. Nonetheless universities will always remain committed to engaging with the development of A-levels."

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