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What is Rishi Sunak’s Vision for Maths?

13/07/2023 / Maths Tutoring

In the first few days of 2023, Prime Minister Rishi Sunak announced that all young people in the UK would continue to study mathematics until the age of 18.

What will change under this new vision for maths, and what does it mean for parents and children in school now? In this post, we’ll explore the background, context and implications of the Rishi Sunak maths initiative, together with advice for families about how to prepare for their children’s maths education under these new rules.

What’s the current state of mathematics in the UK?

Maths proficiency and education

At the moment, children in the UK must study mathematics up to the age of 16. If students want to continue their education in a school or college after the age of 16, they have to earn a grade 4 or higher in their maths GCSE or continue trying to do so.

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak says that he feels this current system is causing low levels of numeracy. Indeed, a 2012 survey of adult skills in OECD countries found that nearly a quarter of adults in England and Northern Ireland scored at or below the lowest level of numeracy – a high proportion compared to many other OECD countries.

What’s more, about one third of pupils did not pass their maths GCSE in 2022.

Other maths initiatives

In the last 10 years, the UK government has already launched two initiatives to improve mathematics proficiency:

  • The Multiply programme began in 2022 but has not yet fully been rolled out. It aims to deliver short courses and training to adults who need help with numeracy.
  • The Maths Hubs programme began in 2014. It aims to support teachers, schools and colleges to deliver strong mathematics education.

What will change under the Rishi Sunak maths plan?

January 2023 vision

On 4th January, Prime Minister Rishi Sunak stated that all children would study maths until they turned 18. However, he was clear that there will be no rule requiring all children to take mathematics at A level.

In that case, what will the compulsory mathematics education between ages 16 to 18 look like? A January blog from the UK government’s education hub said that the government is “exploring existing routes, such as the Core Maths qualifications and T-Levels, as well as more innovative options”.

April 2023 updates

In April 2023, the government provided updates on the Rishi Sunak maths initiative, stating that it was establishing a new advisory group that will guide government as it makes decisions about the new maths plan. The advisory group will include business leaders who can explain how mathematics skills are important in their industries.

The core topics explored by the advisory group will be:

  • What are the most essential mathematics concepts that children 16-18 need to master to do well in their careers?
  • Should a new maths qualification be introduced for students who are not taking mathematics at A level?

The advisory group is scheduled to finish its work at the end of July 2023, so results should be available after then.

The government also stated that even more schools will be supported by Maths Hubs to improve the mathematics education they provide. An April update from the Education Hub said that the government was investigating how mathematics might be involved in apprenticeship programmes.

Lastly, the government said it will be creating a new, optional professional qualification for teachers of mathematics in primary schools.

What do these changes mean for your children?

Firstly, it’s important to know that the Prime Minister has stated that these changes will not be implemented in the current parliament, which is due to end by December 2024.

Secondly, if your child is already planning to take maths at A level, there should also be no difference for them.

However, if your child is in primary school or the earlier years of secondary school, you may want to enhance your children’s mathematics skills in general – whether they are planning to take mathematics at a higher level or not.

This is because, together with the initiative to make maths compulsory to 18, the government is focusing strongly on the idea of mastery in mathematics. The Maths Hubs, which are part of the new maths vision, also focus on mastery.

It seems likely that the compulsory maths education outside of A levels will emphasise mastery. And it also seems likely that other maths education, including teaching before the age of 16, will increasingly value mastery.

What is a focus on mastery?

In short, mastery in mathematics is all about understanding the maths that you are doing, rather than just following routine steps without understanding why you are doing them. This means that you can approach problems in different ways, or you can develop your own way of approaching a new problem because you understand the reasoning behind mathematics concepts.

Mastery does mean that children need to quickly recall maths concepts such as times tables or the order of operations. But that’s just a starting point. Children then need to skilfully use these concepts to solve problems.

Hire a private online mathematics tutor >

What you can do to help your child

Learn and practice times tables

Since mastery uses key concepts as a starting point, one thing that parents of primary school children can do is ensure that their child has great recall of their multiplication tables up to 12×12.

The government expects children in Year 4 or above to know these by heart. So, if your child is in lower year groups, or if they’re in Year 4 or higher but have gaps in their knowledge, practising times tables in small ways every day is a great way to get your child started off on the right foot.

A BBC Bitesize page offers some fun activities to help your child perfect their times tables knowledge.

Keep an eye on the news

As we’ve discussed, the government’s advisory group on mathematics is set to finish its work in July 2023.

The group is scheduled to present its findings to the Prime Minister before July ends and to discuss its views with government sometime in the summer. We don’t yet know when the findings will be publicly released, so it’s wise to keep an eye out to learn more details about the concepts that will be emphasised and any new qualifications to be introduced in the Rishi Sunak maths initiative.

Explore private tutoring in mathematics

In a classroom setting, it’s difficult for teachers to ensure that children have really achieved mastery and grasped the meaning and rationale behind mathematical processes. As long as a child can follow mathematics procedures well, they may pass tests while not understanding why the procedures they’re using work.

This means that a child who is succeeding in mathematics at lower levels may start to stumble at higher levels when lessons become less about following steps and more about understanding meaning.

A private tutor in mathematics who works one-on-one with your child can give them the time and attention they need to ask questions and explore mathematics in a thoughtful way. A tutor can also adapt problems and discuss them with your child to ensure that your child has mastery of the concepts and isn’t just following steps without understanding them.

Supporting your child in mathematics with Principal Tutors

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak has emphasised how important mathematics and numeracy are for your child’s future career success. His new vision for maths will emphasise mastery and the mathematics skills children need to thrive in the real world, such as in the workplace.

Mathematics tutoring from Principal Tutors’ qualified UK teachers can help prepare your child for the emphasis on mathematics education ahead. That’s because our private tutors have not only in-depth mathematics knowledge, but also the teaching skills necessary to understand a child’s requirements and guide them appropriately. That’s paired with a deep understanding of the UK curriculum and of mathematics concepts such as mastery.

We know that some children may have anxiety around maths. That’s why Principal Tutors focuses on making a strong match between the child and tutor’s personalities and teaching styles. Whether you have a nervous learner who needs lots of encouragement, an energetic child who needs things to stay quick-paced and engaging, or a deep thinker who enjoys wrestling with thorny problems, we have a tutor who can tailor their approach to your student’s individual needs.

With Principal Tutors, you also get personalised feedback after each session, ensuring that you know exactly how your child is progressing and what the focus of the next tutoring session will be. With online tutoring, you can even request recordings of your sessions so that your child can use them as a resource in the future.

To talk more with us about how tutoring for mathematics can help your child achieve mastery, succeed in their mathematics GCSE, or prepare them for mathematics learning past the age of 16, give us a call on 0800 772 0974. Alternatively, if you’re ready to start, you can use our online form to request a tutor.


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