21/06/2012 08:09 BST

Make Teens Study Maths Until They Are 18, Urges MP Elizabeth Truss

Teenagers should be made to study maths up to the age of 18 to improve the nation's skills in the subject, an MP said on Thursday.

Elizabeth Truss argued that maths should be separated from other qualifications, with pupils studying it alongside A-levels, an apprenticeship or vocational courses.

In a paper published on Thursday, Truss sets out her reforms to make maths compulsory by 2015, in line with plans to raise the school leaving age to 18.

It calls for three levels of study - core, preparatory and higher - with each student taking a level at the same time as their other qualifications.

Core maths would be taken by arts students, or those taking other vocational courses, the paper says.

The preparatory level would be for those studying social sciences or technical and engineering-based vocational qualifications.

And higher maths would be aimed at those planning to take maths or science at university, or those on highly technical apprenticeships. It would be equivalent to current A-level maths and further maths.

Truss, Conservative MP for south west Norfolk, claims that maths is the subject in which the UK performs poorest in international tables, but is also the most in demand.

"The proposal is that mathematics should be 'decoupled' from other A-levels and vocational courses and offered as a separate course taken by all students from 2015," the paper says.

"It could then be offered in three levels for all 16-18 -year-olds accompanied by two or three A-levels, a vocational qualification or an apprenticeship.

"Every student would have a level and grade and these would be reported in the league tables."

Truss says that reforms are needed because evidence shows that there is a shortage of maths teachers to teach the next generation, while many adults do not have good enough maths skills for work or modern life.

"The Government needs to take urgent action to address the lack of mathematics attainment in schools," Truss said.

"Current failings are hampering social mobility and the UK's long term competitiveness."

Last summer's A-level results showed large increases in the number of entries for science subjects and mathematics.

Biology entries were up by 7.2%, with chemistry up 9.2%, physics up 6.1% and mathematics, including further mathematics, up by 7.4%.