Rishi Sunak Unveils Plan To Make Every Pupil Learn Maths Until They Are 18

The prime minister will say numeracy is "every bit as essential as reading".
Prime Minister Rishi Sunak during a visit to Harris Academy at Battersea, south-west London. Picture date: Friday January 6, 2023.
Prime Minister Rishi Sunak during a visit to Harris Academy at Battersea, south-west London. Picture date: Friday January 6, 2023.
Henry Nicholls via PA Wire/PA Images

Rishi Sunak will today set out plans to make every school pupil in England learn maths until they are 18.

The prime minister will say the country must change its “anti-maths mindset” and begin to see numeracy as “a key skill every bit as essential as reading”.

However, the changes do not mean that every pupil will eventually be forced to take maths at A-level.

Instead, a group of mathematicians, education experts and business chiefs will be set up to advise ministers on what pupils aged between 16 and 18 need to study and whether a new qualification is needed to deliver it.

The UK is one of the least numerate countries in the OECD group of developed nations.

More than eight million adults have numeracy skills below those expected of a nine-year-old, while around one-third of pupils fail to pass GCSE maths.

It is estimated that the problem costs the economy tens of billions of pounds a year.

In a speech to students, teachers, education experts and business leaders in London, the prime minister will say: “We’ve got to change this anti-maths mindset. We’ve got to start prizing numeracy for what it is – a key skill every bit as essential as reading.

“I won’t sit back and allow this cultural sense that it’s OK to be bad at maths to put our children at a disadvantage.

“My campaign to transform our national approach to maths is not some nice to have. It’s about changing how we value maths in this country.”

Sunak will add: “We will not deliver this change overnight. We’ll need to recruit and train the maths teachers. We’ll need to work out how to harness technology to support them.

“And we’ll need to make sure this maths is additional to other subjects – not instead of them.

“But we are taking the first step today by identifying the maths content that will give our 16-to-18 year olds the skills they need to get on in life.”

Shadow education secretary Bridget Philpson said: “He cannot deliver this reheated, empty pledge without more maths teachers.

“But after thirteen years of failing our children, the Tory government repeatedly misses their target for new maths teachers, with maths attainment gaps widening and existing teachers leaving in their droves.

Labour does not need a new advisory group to make the right choices for our children. We will drive up standards in every corner of our country by investing in thousands more teachers, including maths teachers, by ending tax breaks for private schools.”

When news of the PM’s plan first emerged in January, actor and comedian Simon Pegg branded Sunak a “tosser” who wants to create a “drone army of data-entering robots”.

He said: “[He’s] decided that it should be compulsory for children to learn maths up until the age of 18. What a prick.

“What about arts and humanities and fostering this country’s amazing reputation for creativity and self-expression? What about that?

“What about the kids who don’t want to do maths? I hated maths. I dropped Maths as soon as I could and I’ve never needed it, other than the skillset I acquired at the age of 12.”


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