PM calls for increased focus on numeracy, but critics argue that rhetoric is empty without a well-funded strategy – according to the Guardian.

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Rishi Sunak Asserts UK's 'Anti-Maths Attitude' Is Costly

Key takeaways:

  • Rishi Sunak plans to reintroduce a proposal to mandate maths education until the age of 18, aiming to change the UK’s “anti-maths attitude.”
  • Critics argue that Sunak’s commitment lacks substance without a comprehensive plan, particularly funding for recruiting and training maths teachers.
  • The government plans to establish an advisory group to provide guidance on numeracy content and consider a new maths qualification for 16- to 18-year-olds.

The UK’s ingrained “anti-maths attitude” hinders progress in enhancing numeracy, according to Rishi Sunak, who plans to reintroduce his proposal to mandate maths education until the age of 18. The prime minister, during a scheduled speech in north London on Monday, is expected to emphasize the significance of valuing numeracy as a fundamental skill like reading, which he believes could save the UK economy substantial amounts.

Sunak is set to declare, as per pre-released extracts of his speech from Downing Street, “We must alter this anti-maths attitude. We must begin to recognize numeracy as the crucial skill it is, just as vital as reading. I will not stand idly by while this cultural perception that being bad at maths is acceptable places our children at a disadvantage. My initiative to revamp our national approach to maths is not a mere ‘nice to have.’ It is about altering how we appreciate maths in this nation.”

In a previous speech in early January, Sunak initially introduced his intention to make studying maths compulsory for everyone until the age of 18, instead of the current minimum age of 16. Critics, including opposition parties, argue that this commitment lacks substance without a comprehensive plan, particularly in terms of funding for recruiting and training additional maths teachers.

Sunak is likely to refer to data revealing that the UK lags behind in numeracy among industrialized countries, with over 8 million adults possessing maths skills below the expected level for a nine-year-old child. He is expected to assert, “We cannot afford to let weak numeracy skills cost our economy tens of billions annually or leave people twice as likely to be unemployed compared to those with adequate numeracy. We must radically transform our education system to equip our youth with the knowledge and skills they—and our businesses—require to compete globally.”

The government has committed to establishing an advisory group consisting of mathematicians, educational experts, and business representatives to provide guidance on necessary numeracy content and to consider the creation of a new maths qualification for 16- to 18-year-olds.

Bridget Phillipson, Labour’s Shadow Education Secretary, commented, “The prime minister must once again prove his case: he cannot fulfill this rehashed, hollow promise without more maths teachers. However, after 13 years of letting our children down, the Tory government consistently falls short in meeting their target for new maths teachers, while maths attainment gaps widen and current teachers leave in large numbers.”


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