Pupils ‘should study maths till 18’

By Phil Scullion

English school pupils should study maths up till 18 former a report has said.

The report, which was commissioned by the government and led by former Countdown co-host Carol Vorderman, urged radical change if children are to be equipped with the numeracy skills they need to succeed in the workplace.

Ms Vorderman accused the current system of failing pupils and pointed to more than 300,000 16-year-olds each year who complete their education without a solid grasp of basic math.

Speaking on the Today programme Ms Vorderman said maths is a "critically important" subject.

"It is a language without which the entire global infrastructure is struck dumb.

"This report does not make comfortable reading. It is aspirational but this does not mean making maths 'harder' for everyone; it means making the teaching better and what is taught much more suitable for those who are learning it," she added.

Almost half of all 16-year-olds do not achieve a grade C at GCSE level in Maths and only 15% of 16-year-olds go on to study the subject beyond that level.

Comparatively the vast majority of students in most industrialised nations continue their mathematical studies till 18.

Ms Vorderman said: "Who knows which countries will come out on top in 20 years – is it going to be a country which has a lot of numerate people, or is the one that doesn't bother?"

The report was initially commissioned by the Conservative party in 2009 whilst in opposition and has been welcomed by education secretary Michael Gove.

In a speech to the Royal Society in June Mr Gove expressed the view that the "vast majority" should be studying maths till 18.

He said: "As Carol and her team point out so powerfully, we are falling behind our competitors when it comes to mathematics education.

"British 15-year-olds' mathematics skills are now more than two whole academic years behind 15-year-olds in Shanghai and the last decade has seen us plummet down the international league tables in both maths and science."

The "maths task force" report suggests that a potential solution to the problem could be to split mathematical education in two, offering students will less aptitude an approach which focuses more on equipping them for life than teaching them advanced mathematics.