Advisory Committee on Mathematics Education (ACME)

Recent updates in mathematics education

24 August 2015

Mathematics has been in the spotlight even more than usual in the past couple of weeks.

A level results last week showed that A level Mathematics is now the most popular A level subject, with the number increasing by 4.4% this year. A level Further Mathematics also showed a 6.9% increase.

The publication of the GCSE results saw that GCSE Mathematics was once again the most popular GCSE subject and the number of students getting a C grade or higher increasingly by 0.9%. As likely because a student's first entry in a particular subject is counted in the school performance tables, there was a decrease in the number of 15 year olds (-14.8%) taking GCSE Mathematics.

The continued popularity of mathematics at A level and GCSE, as well as the introduction of Core Maths qualifications has led to concerns being raised by the media recently over the shortfall in mathematics teachers. ACME very much welcomes the fact that more students are taking mathematics post-16. Robert Barbour, was interviewed this week by The Times and appeared on the 'World at One' on BBC Radio 4 and on BBC Radio 5's '5 Live drive' about the supply of teachers. Robert welcomed the range of initiatives that are underway to recruit more people into the profession and noted that even greater efforts are needed if we are to plug the gaps now and in the future. He also discussed the need for greater insight into why teachers are leaving the profession. To explore what teachers of mathematics need during intial teacher education (ITE), ACME is undertaking a project looking at the key components of ITE for these teachers. The project is due to report in the autumn and will make recommendations for policy.

Mathematical skills are important beyond GCSE and A level Mathematics, a point that was made by Alun Evans, Chief Executive of the British Academy, on BBC News. He noted the British Academy report 'Count Us In', which highlights that 'our schools and colleges need to be giving children and young adults a strong, confident grasp of data from an early age'. Mick Blaylock, Head of the Core Maths Support Programme, also spoke to BBC News about GCSE Mathematics and the new Core Maths qualifications

The recognition of the importance of mathematics and mathematical skills is very welcome and ACME is committed to working with others to ensure that all young people come to value mathematics and develop confident, positive attitudes to learning and using it.

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