Lord Kenneth Baker, who was education secretary under Margaret Thatcher in the 1980s, said that school-leavers are entering the workplace unable to do basic sums. The Telegraph reports.
“The level of numeracy at 16 has been a problem for quite a long time,” he said. “What really prompted my interest was speaking to industry people. They want someone who can master numbers, someone who is numerate.”
Lord Baker suggests that the current maths GCSE should be axed and replaced with two separate exams: a Core Maths paper and an optional Further Maths paper for the more able students.
He told The Daily Telegraph: “There’s a huge difference between numeracy and maths. Very often youngsters can fail maths, or not do very well at maths GCSE because they are not very good at calculus, trigonometry or geometry. That’s a pity in my view.”
A Core Maths paper would be a far more “attainable target” for many 16-year-olds, he added. Excusing them from taking the Further Maths paper would free up their time, allowing them to concentrate on mastering numeracy.
“What I’m trying to do is equip young people with a range of mathematical skills which will help them with whatever job they do.”
He said that a Core Maths GCSE could test students’ understanding of topics such as volume, time and distance as well as interest charges, debt, loans and mortgages.
He said it would not just be multiplication, division and times tables but also fractions, percentages, proportions and decimals. “All of that will be necessary for their lives, whatever they do,” Lord Baker said. “Basic numeracy is absolutely fundamental. I am really trying to respond to the needs of industry.”
Do you agree with Lord Baker? Should there be 2 papers? Please tell us your thoughts in comments or via Twitter ~ Tamsin
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