Clarke tackles maths crisis with pay rises
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Donald MacLeod
Monday June 28, 2004

Experienced maths teachers will be able to earn up to 60,000, with a guaranteed minimum of 40,000 a year in England, the education secretary, Charles Clarke, announced today as he set out a range of measures to tackle the maths crisis in schools.

There will be bigger bursaries for maths graduates to train as teachers and increased "golden hellos" for those starting in schools. A new two-tier maths GCSE will be introduced to replace the present three-tier system, where a third of pupils have no hope of gaining a C pass at all.

The drive to boost teaching in the subject is close to Mr Clarke's heart - he did a maths and economics degree at Cambridge and reserved personal responsibility for maths when he took over as education secretary and allocated jobs to his ministerial team. He commissioned a devastating report from Professor Adrian Smith, vice-chancellor of Queen Mary's London, who earlier this year made a series of recommendations in Making Mathematics Count, including improving the supply of mathematics teachers, supporting teachers' continuing professional development, improving curriculum pathways, assessment and qualifications, and providing strategic leadership.

Today, Mr Clarke announced he would appoint a chief adviser for mathematics to oversee the implementation of the mathematics strategy.

For teachers he proposes raising the value of the teacher training bursary for mathematics graduates from 6,000 to 7,000 from September 2005, and increasing the value of the golden hello for new mathematics teachers from 4,000 to 5,000 for trainees entering PGCE courses from September 2005 onwards.

Subject to the statutory advice of the school teachers' review body, the cap on pay for mathematics advanced skills teachers, currently just below 50,000, will be lifted and they will be guaranteed a minimum salary of 40,000. The number of undergraduates on the student associates scheme will be doubled from 5,000 this year to 10,000 places by 2005/06, a high proportion of which will be in the shortage subjects. This programme encourages good quality undergraduates to consider training as teachers by giving them experience of working in schools as volunteers.

Mr Clarke said: "We need to get away from the myth that mathematics is a stand alone subject which is too difficult for many. Mathematical skills are crucial throughout the curriculum, from geography to ICT, and they are vital for today's fast moving hi-tech economy.

"The key issue is to raise the profile and esteem of mathematics. In the meantime, it is important we provide the right incentives to attract graduates to become mathematics teachers. I am, therefore, proposing to increase the training bursaries, golden hellos and increase the salaries of mathematics advanced skills teachers to ensure the best teachers stay in the classroom."

Measures to support teachers' continuing professional development include establishing a national centre for excellence in mathematics teaching and pooling mathematics expertise within schools to increase the relevance and range of training opportunities on offer at a local level.

In the classroom, a two-tier mathematics GCSE will be introduced this autumn once evaluation of a pilot is complete following this summer's exams. The new format could be taught nationwide from September 2006.

This was one of the main targets of Professor Smith's criticism. He told Education Guardian in February: "We've lost the plot on GCSE. The whole curriculum and qualifications framework is not fit for purpose, it just fails to do the job." There was nothing to stretch or excite bright youngsters, and a bad situation was made worse by the way Curriculum 2000 was brought in and a third of candidates failing AS-levels.

Mr Clarke is expecting the forthcoming report on the 14 to 19 curriculum by Mike Tomlinson to take up Professor Smith's criticisms.

The government's response to the Smith inquiry can be found here.

Related articles
28.06.2004: Clarke to unveil maths reforms to beat crisis
24.02.2004: Pressure on government to remedy findings of maths report
24.02.2004: Report finds maths education in need of urgent overhaul
24.02.2004: Plan to waive fee for maths degree

Useful links
Read the full report (pdf)
Test your maths with a sample GSCE paper
Talk: why are we so bad at maths?