Stoke offers to pay tuition fees in maths drive
Stoke-on-Trent is trying to radically improve maths standards in its schools, including by helping to pay off the tuition fees of maths teachers who come to work in the city.
The maths project is aimed at improving the chances for young people growing up in a city where many traditional industries have declined.
Local MP Tristram Hunt is working with local schools, council and employers.
Ofsted chief Sir Michael Wilshaw will launch the scheme on Wednesday.
The £1m maths project, a form of educational urban regeneration, is aimed at attracting bright young maths graduates to a city struggling with industrial decline and academic underachievement.
The city's schools are among the lowest performing in GCSE results in England and have been criticised by Ofsted in a way Mr Hunt described as "pretty devastating".
In terms of the proportion of pupils in good or outstanding schools, Stoke is in the bottom 10 local authorities in the country.
The Maths Excellence Partnership, co-ordinated by Mr Hunt, is an attempt to get local organisations, including Keele University and regional maths hubs, to join forces to support schools in improving maths.
There is a target for 70% of pupils to achieve a good grade at GCSE maths in the next three years, up from 59% at present.
Across the country, schools have reported difficulties in recruiting maths teachers.
Mr Hunt, a former shadow education secretary, said it was "frankly difficult" for cities such as Stoke to compete for staff with cities such as London, Birmingham and Manchester.
The Stoke project is offering cash to attract new recruits - £2,000 per year for three years towards paying off tuition fees and a further relocation payment of £2,000.
This will be in addition to the national bursaries already offered to attract students into training as maths teachers.
There will also be a £2,000 relocation offer for established teachers wanting to transfer to Stoke.
And for those already teaching in the city, there will be funding for more specialist training.
With funding from the local council, the project will cost about £334,000 per year for three years.
"Money matters and if we can alleviate some of the cost of student loans, that's important," said Mr Hunt.
He also wants it to develop a sense of civic purpose and "camaraderie" in the drive to raise standards.
And he wants to establish Stoke as a pioneering place for ambitious young graduates to build a professional career.
Mr Hunt said schools in Stoke operated against the background of a changing economy and labour market, with jobs disappearing in manufacturing and the pottery industry.
He said the city had a "history of a very successful economy, which was highly skilled, but did not always place a great emphasis on formal schooling and qualifications".
"We're battling against some of the legacies of that," he said.
The project is also being backed by one of the contemporary local employers, online gambling company Bet365.
Janine Bridges, Stoke-on-Trent city council's cabinet member for education, said: "This is a hugely important project for the city and is part of our pledge to continue to drive up education standards in schools.
"This programme will not only allow us to recruit and retain maths teachers in the city, but to support their continued development."
Two secondary schools have been closely involved in developing the project, St Joseph's College and Ormiston Sir Stanley Matthews Academy.
Mark Stanyer, principal of Ormiston Sir Stanley Matthews Academy, said the shortage of maths teachers was a problem.
"It's very difficult to recruit people," he said.
But he was "very confident" the incentives for new teachers and the plans for specialist training would make a positive impact.
Mr Stanyer also highlighted the "major impact" of industrial decline over several decades, which had seen job losses in pottery and coal mining and a switch to service industries.
"We have talented people, but they need to be nurtured," he said.
And young people more than ever needed to be equipped with qualifications in maths and English.
Roisin Maguire, head of St Joseph's College, said the project would help schools to "attract, train and develop the very best maths teachers for Stoke. It places Stoke at the forefront of educational development".
Sir Michael described the maths partnership as an "exciting and promising venture".
"It's absolutely vital that children have a core body of knowledge to take with them to the next stage of their education," he said.
"And it's exactly this type of collaboration between education providers and experts that will help schools focus on raising attainment in those core subjects."