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Mean on Sunday: pupils to study maths until 18 under Rishi Sunak’s ‘new mission’

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By Ian Mean

Business West Gloucestershire director & Vice Chair GFirstLEP

Young people studying maths until they are 18-the Prime Minister’s plan to reimagine our education system-is not something that endears itself to business.

In fact, what business wants are young people who display “work ready” credentials and are enthusiastic to learn on the job.

This is a key conclusion now coming out of the detailed discussions Business West has been carrying out in this region as part of the government’s Local Skills Improvement Plans or LSIPs as they are known.

Quite simply, our Business West team has been asking dozens of companies what their employment needs are.

And key educationalists are also telling us a similar story to firms struggling to find the right young people to train.

Typical of these is Sarah-Jane Watkins, Principal of South Gloucestershire & Stroud College who tells me: “Whilst maths is an important skill, employers-based on the LSIP feedback, but also our own employer panels, value other core employability skills even more importantly-such as the ability to communicate, attitude, behaviours, appearance and commitment.

“These core skills need the same attention as numeracy.”

And Matt Burgess, Principal of Gloucestershire College said: “There is some need for more maths, but fundamentally, it needs to start at the other end-not 16-18.

“The focus really needs to be at primary school or pre-primary.”

Nationally, something like three quarters of maths are delivered in colleges like South Gloucestershire and Stroud and Gloucestershire.

But latest data shows 44 per cent of colleges are struggling to hire enough maths teachers.

And with maths teachers in schools currently earning around £8,000 more than those in colleges, this is a big challenge for Rishi Sunak’s plan.

It does seem bonkers to me although I am no education expert.

I am afraid this will not change until there is a fundamental change in how government funds colleges which are at the bottom of the pile after higher education and schools.

This does not make sense at a time when business is crying out for more skilled and work ready young people who are studying at our colleges.

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