In the Autumn 2017 budget, the Chancellor announced a £600 maths premium for every additional student who takes Core Maths (or A-level Maths). He also made a number of other policy announcements relating to a range of maths education issues, which we will discuss in separate posts. This post focusses on the implications of the budget for Core Maths.
We obviously welcome the additional potential funding for Core Maths that the announcement brings, and it ties in with some of the recommendations that the Smith review made in this regard. It also good to see that a focus on mathematics education remains strong within the highest echelons of government despite all the other concerns and problems that they are facing (e.g. Brexit).
However, we would question the need for any additional funding for A-level Mathematics itself, given that it is already the most popular A-level in terms of entry numbers, meaning that there are unlikely to be many additional students who will do it as a result of this policy. On a related point, there is an interesting discussion led by Charlie Stripp of the NCTEM on who should be doing A-level maths: Entry requirement for A level maths.
Back to Core Maths: we agree with Sue Pope that it would be much better to target Core Maths (and Further Maths) since these are more vulnerable, given the recent move to a standard post-16 model of three A-levels (or equivalent) which tends to limit the attraction of qualifications that don’t fit this model (e.g. Core Maths).
We await further details of the announcement, but are disappointed that the funding is planned only for ‘additional’ students, above and beyond a certain baseline, probably student entry numbers in 2017. This in effect punishes those innovative institutions who have already taken up Core Maths, which seems a little unfair. Why the need for the ‘additional’ requirement, given the current numbers doing Core Maths is quite low (e.g. 5000 entries in summer 2017)? Why not make the ‘bonus’ count for all Core Maths (and Further Maths) students only (i.e. omitting A-level Maths)?
Anecdotally, in talking to a number of Core Maths teachers since the budget, there is some doubt that this will make substantial difference to school/college decisions in terms of Core Maths provision. The issues are much wider than funding alone. Given the current climate, with an understandable focus on results and league tables, institutional decisions are driven to a strong degree by these other factors. As our project work develops, we hope to gain better insights into a range of issues impacting on the uptake (or not) of Core Maths – including for example, the currency of the qualification in higher education and with employers.