The Post-14 Mathematics Inquiry

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Making Mathematics Count

The Report of Professor Adrian Smith's Inquiry into Post-14 Mathematics Education

The Rt. Hon. Charles Clarke, MP
Secretary of State for Education and Skills
Sanctuary Building
Great Smith Street
London SW1P 3BT

February 2004

Dear Charles,

I am pleased to present to you the report of the Post-14 Mathematics Inquiry.

I am grateful to have been given the opportunity to lead this Inquiry and would like to thank the many organisations and individuals who provided me with such a wealth of invaluable facts, figures, opinions and advice. I would particularly like to thank the members of my Steering Group for their patient support and wise counsel; my expert advisers for their tutorial advice, and my secretariat for their professional support. All have contributed enormously to my report.

In carrying out this UK Inquiry, I have been mindful of the fact that responsibility for mathematics education is devolved to all three devolved administrations. The degree of common ground with England varies markedly across the territories of the UK, as do territorial perceptions of the problems they face regarding mathematics education. I should therefore make clear that, for the most part, my analyses and recommendations refer more directly to England than to Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales. Nevertheless, I hope that many elements of the report will be useful to all the devolved administrations.

Mathematics is of central importance to modern society. It provides the language and analytical tools underpinning much of our scientific and industrial research and development. Mathematical concepts, models and techniques are also key to many vital areas of the knowledge economy, including the finance and ICT industries. Mathematics is crucially important, too, for the employment opportunities and achievements of individual citizens.

The Inquiry has therefore found it deeply disturbing that so many important stakeholders believe there to be a crisis in the teaching and learning of mathematics in England. There are three major areas of concern.

First, we have a curriculum and qualifications framework that fails to meet the mathematical requirements of learners, fails to meet the needs and expectations of higher education and employers and fails to motivate and encourage sufficient numbers of young people to continue with the study of mathematics post-16.

Secondly, we have a serious shortage of specialist mathematics teachers in schools and colleges and this is having an adverse effect on pupils' learning experiences.

Thirdly, there is a lack of support infrastructure, both at national and local levels, to provide continuing professional development and resources, including ICT, in support of excellence in the teaching and learning of mathematics.

My report makes a number of recommendations for addressing these problems. Some, I believe, can be implemented straightaway and would produce immediate improvements. Others require more radical, longer-term changes.

So far as the curriculum and qualifications framework is concerned, it is timely that the publication of the report of this Inquiry follows so closely after the publication of the Interim Report of the Working Group on 14-19 Curriculum and Qualifications Reform. The Post-14 Mathematics Inquiry strongly welcomes and endorses the broad philosophy of the Working Group’s proposals. I believe that the proposals I make in this report for designing new pathways for mathematics are fully compatible with the Working Group’s proposals for theoverall 14-19 framework.

So far as support for the teaching and learning of mathematics is concerned, the Inquiry believes it to be vital that we provide teachers of mathematics in schools and colleges with greatly enhanced resources and with sustained access to professional support and development. Specifically, I propose a model of national and local infrastructure that I believe will enhance the mathematics teaching environment, nurture and support individual teachers of mathematics and encourage collectively in mathematics departments in schools and colleges a renewed sense of confidence and professionalism.

The implementation of the recommendations set out in this report will begin the process of averting the crisis in mathematics education. I commend these recommendations to you.

I am also copying this letter to Jane Davidson in Wales, Jane Kennedy in Northern Ireland and Peter Peacock in Scotland.

Professor Adrian Smith, FRS

Exec. Summary ->

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