Specialist maths free schools fail to spark university interest

The TES is reporting that just three universities have agreed to back specialist maths schools designed to cream off the best young mathematicians for sixth-form study…

In November 2011, the government announced it wanted to create a “network” of specialist maths schools for 16- to 18-year-olds to “give our most talented young mathematicians the chance to flourish”.

At the time, it was widely trailed by government sources in national newspapers that between 12 and 16 maths schools would be set up.

The state schools would be loosely based on the Russian model, which linked schools with universities, such as the Kolmogorov maths school, which is part of Moscow State University. The Russian school was named after the famous mathematician Andrei Kolmogorov, and produced some of the best mathematical minds in the country taught by university academics.

By January 2013, King’s College London and the University of Exeter had announced that they would be opening specialist maths schools; the government said its aim was to create a network of such schools across England.

But last July, the then-education minister Elizabeth Truss called on more universities to join Exeter and KCL and announced that a “fast-track” system had been put in place to help them do so.

And a freedom-of-information request has now revealed that since then only one application has been received – from the University of Central Lancashire. Five further expressions of interest have been made but not yet yielded an application.

The Department for Education revealed the low numbers in response to the FoI, which was initially refused on the grounds that applicants may be “deterred from applying if their involvement was disclosed at an inappropriately early stage”.

David Reynolds, professor of education at the University of Southampton and chair of the numeracy task force – which oversaw the implementation of the National Numeracy Strategy – said that backers may not be coming forward because of a wariness about filling places in such a specialist school.

But a small number of schools was not necessarily a problem, he said, if what they learned from their experience could be shared around…


Both the Exeter Maths School, which has some weekly boarding places, and the King’s College London Mathematics School, which is a day school, are due to open in September.

TES contacted the DfE and is awaiting a response…

More at: Specialist maths free schools fail to spark university interest


Is the low number of schools setting up a sign of failure here or is it perfectly reasonable that with such a new initiative a small number try things out while others wait and see how they get on before deciding whether to follow or not? Let us know what you think in the comments or via Twitter…


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  1. andylutwyche

    SchoolsImprove Another embarrassment for the DfE under the Gove/Truss/Willets/Laws administration. Will the new incumbents do any better?

  2. andylutwyche

    SchoolsImprove Are educational establishments wise to the faddish nature of the current DfE policies?

  3. apostrophe1977

    SchoolsImprove Maybe we need to get into the primaries and secondaries to get enough 16-18 year olds good enough to specialist in maths

  4. AllThingsMaths

    SchoolsImprove KingsCollegeLon have provided fantastic support for a year 10 gifted mathematician… quality over quantity?

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