The government recently announced plans to “reimagine its approach to numeracy” resulting in “all pupils in England studying maths in some form until they are 18”.

This policy decision, we are told, is driven by the fact that “we live in a world where data is everywhere, statistics underpin every job and the jobs of the future will require more analytical skills than ever before. Letting our children out into the world without those skills, is letting our children down.”

Whilst I agree that the jobs of the future will require more analytical skills, this policy decision misses a number of important points.

As the principal of Newham Sixth Form College (NewVIc), one of the largest sixth form colleges in London, I do not believe that this policy decision is in the best interest of students.

Our experience of supporting 16-18 year olds who are already doing compulsory GCSE maths resits shows that this approach simply doesn’t work. And this experience is reflected nationally too.

Year on year, the GCSE Maths resit pass rate for 16-18 year olds, sat by tens of thousands of students hovers around the 20% mark.

Put simply, forcing students to do something they don’t want to do doesn’t work and those of us who have children know this is especially true of teenagers.

There is nothing in the evidence to suggest that extending the approach to all students up to the age of 18 will work - and it will not enable the government to realise its ambition.

Clearly, something isn’t working. Furthermore, like many other colleges, we have struggled to recruit staff to deliver the existing GCSE maths resit programme.

How will the extended programme be staffed and funded? Whilst the autumn statement unveiled an extra £2.3bn in core school funding, no extra funding was given to the college sector (including sixth form colleges like ourselves), which educates many of the most disadvantaged 16-18 year olds.

The college is a central part of the Newham community, providing excellent education and training which has helped increase the social mobility of generations of families for over 30 years.

One of the questions we should be asking ourselves is why so many students leave primary and secondary schools struggling with maths. Surely this issue should be addressed far earlier during a young person's education journey?

If it is addressed earlier, as it should be, then the Government may reach their ambition without another well-intentioned but highly unrealistic and heavily problematic change in our education system.

If the key aim of the policy decision is to equip students with analytical skills, then why should the sole focus be on maths? Why not English and computing too?

Surely these skills alongside softer skills, as employers frequently tell us, are also needed to compete successfully in the future world of work.

Lastly, where does this leave humanities and creative arts qualifications which also enable students to develop these skills too?

There is a real danger that the mission to give “everyone the opportunity to flourish" promised by the levelling up agenda is at risk.

Studying maths after 16 should be an option, it should not be a requirement and if building analytical skills is key, then there are many other ways of doing so other than just studying one subject.

In my experience as an educationalist who has worked with 16-18 year olds for over 20 years, I have found the best way to motivate and support students is to not force upon them what they must do but instead guide them to make choices that help them realise their future ambitions.

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