Norfolk MP calls for cash for maths

Deborah McGurran
Political editor, East of England

image copyrightOther
image captionElizabeth Truss MP, says there are serious issues to address over maths education

Elizabeth Truss, as we have reported before, is passionate about maths and now we know why.

She has two 'A' levels in the subject, an A grade in Ordinary Maths and a C grade in Advanced Maths.

She revealed this to Radio Norfolk shortly before she was to lead a debate at Westminster calling for more people to follow her example and study maths at sixth form.

"Britain has a serious issue with maths education," she told MPs.

"Too often it's seen as something that is nice to have, rather than as the vital tool that it ought to be in our modern society."

She revealed that according to a recent study, less than 20% of students in Britain studied maths between the ages of 16 and 18.

By contrast, nearly every student in Russia, Japan and Korea took the subject as well as 90% of 16-18 year olds in France and 80% of sixth formers in Canada.

Economic disadvantage

"Many students do not have the choice to study further maths, because only 50% of comprehensive schools offer that option.

"Given that further maths is needed to study maths or physics at top universities, many people are therefore put out of contention for the opportunities that we would wish them to have."

And the problem, she said, was particularly bad in Norfolk: nationally 33% of students who took GCSE Maths went on to study the subject at university.

In Norfolk the figure was just 25%.

All this, argued Ms Truss, was putting Britain at an economic disadvantage.

Business people kept telling her that they were struggling to find people with good qualifications in maths, physics, information technology and engineering at university.

Fewer than half of secondary maths teachers in this country hold a maths degree, she complains.

And there is such a big problem recruiting maths teachers that she knows of schools who are having to look overseas.

Cash formula

Ms Truss would like to see a change to the funding formula which would see schools and colleges given more money for teaching maths.

In an ideal world she'd like to see every student studying the subject until they leave school.

The Schools' Minister Tim Loughton said: "Ms Truss is right to hold the government's feet to the fire. We know we need to do a lot more."

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image captionMs Truss wants more money to go to schools and colleges for teaching maths

He told her that the government had launched bursaries to attract the best graduates to train as maths teachers and has invested £6 million to fund the National Centre for Excellence in the Teaching of Mathematics.

Mr Loughton's response was promising on the subject of a premium for teaching maths: "We consulted recently on changes to 16-to-19 funding, and we are currently considering the responses to the consultation."

So it sounds as if there could be some changes on the way.

Certainly Elizabeth Truss intends to keep up her campaign.

And in the interests of transparency, my only 'A' grade 'A level' was in English.