Advisory Committee on Mathematics Education (ACME)

Speech from the Education Secretary Michael Gove on mathematics and science education

29 June 2011

The Education Secretary Michael Gove spoke at the Royal Society on 29 June about mathematics and science education. In his speech, he made several references to ACME's work, notably to the recent ACME  Mathematical Needs reports.  

Michael Gove said: "Every year, about half of our pupils leave school without even a 'C' in maths GCSE. But it's not just those pupils who give us cause for concern. We still send powerful signals throughout our education system that it's somehow acceptable to give up on maths. Critically, we allow students to abandon any mathematical study after 16, in stark contrast to other developed nations. The 'maths gap' that most pupils now experience after the age of 16 means that even those who did well at GCSE have forgotten much of the maths they learnt by the time they start their degree or a job. ACME's most recent figures on the take-up of mathematics among 17 year-olds is particularly worrying.

That is why I think we should set a new goal for the education system so that within a decade the vast majority of pupils are studying maths right through to the age of 18."

The full speech can be found at:

The Chair of ACME, Professor Dame Julia Higgins FRS FREng said: "We were delighted to hear the Education Secretary Michael Gove recognise the importance of maths in education, both at primary and more advanced levels.  In particular, we welcome his recognition of the significance of ACME's Mathematical Needs report, published this month, and its findings that too few students now study the requisite level of mathematics to prepare them properly for higher education or the workplace.  ACME found that 330,000 students each year embark on university courses that require mathematical knowledge beyond GCSE, but that 210,000 of them will be unprepared for this when they arrive, having finished their study of mathematics at GCSE.  Further study of mathematics would ensure that these students, and those entering the world of employment, are better equipped to manage the challenges they will face.  We wholeheartedly agree with the Education Secretary that the vast majority of pupils in the UK should be studying maths right through to the age of 18 - to make this happen we need to develop a range of different post-16 courses to allow everyone to study the mathematics that they need to progress.

ACME's full reports on Mathematical Needs are available for download on our website. Please contact us if you would like a hardcopy of the reports.

Gove Event

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