Cash queries over maths qual

The government unveiled plans for a new level three qualification to keep young people studying maths until 18, but sector bodies have expressed concerns over funding.

The Association of Colleges (AoC) and the Sixth Form Colleges Association (SFCA) welcomed the aims of government proposals published last week to introduce a “core maths” qualification targeted at the 200,000 students a year who achieve C or above at GCSE but who do not take maths A-level.

However, SFCA deputy chief executive James Kewin (pictured top) challenged the government to “match its ambition for curriculum reform with the funding required to deliver it”.

Core maths would sit alongside students’ main 16 to 18 study, according to the Department for Education (DfE) policy statement.

It is expected to be half the size of an A-level, preparing students for employment and study where maths is not the sole focus, but a basic level of numeracy is required.

The DfE document said: “One of the main reasons for introducing new qualifications is to address the 16 to 18 ‘maths gap’, whereby students often forget the maths they have learnt previously.”

The announcement comes just four months after an Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development report found England was the only country where older generations had higher proficiency in numeracy than young adults.

Mr Kewin said: “We share the government’s ambition for more young people to study maths to an advanced level. But if the stated ambition for introducing these new qualifications is to address the 16 to 18 ‘maths gap’, the government would be well advised to first address the 16 to 18 ‘funding gap’ — the plans for these new qualifications were unveiled shortly after the third cut to sixth form funding in three years.”

He said cuts had already led to fewer sixth form colleges offering further maths.

Joy Mercer (pictured below), AoC policy director, said the move toward’s new maths qualification was “welcome”.

But, she added: “Sixth form and FE colleges will need to employ more teachers to meet demand for these courses.

“The DfE identified earlier this year that 1,200 additional teachers are necessary to teach GCSE level after the age of 16. Colleges tell us they are struggling to recruit and when this higher level maths qualification is introduced it will be even more difficult.”

The DfE proposal added that new performance measures could recognise the proportion of students gaining level three maths qualifications.

Ms Mercer said: “AoC cannot understand why this would be a separate accountability measure in performance tables as take-up will be affected by how well it is received by employers and higher education, not by performance tables.”

The qualification technical guidance is due to be published in March, with the qualifications widely available from September 2015.