The 22nd of November was a significant day with the chancellor, Phillip Hammond releasing the new budget. Although there was no direct additional funding for schools there is an incentive for schools to encourage more people to select A Level Maths. The chancellor announced that schools would be awarded an additional £600 funding for every student they encouraged to select A Level Maths. The total pot for this ambitious move is £117 million pounds. Although A Level Maths is the most popular A Level numbers have declined in this year’s intake and the pattern in the past has been when new A levels are made more rigorous like the most recent change to A Level Maths, the number of students who continue to select them drop off.
From experience of working in the education sector we have many anecdotal stories of students being discouraged from taking A Level Maths unless they achieved the very highest levels in their GCSE exams. Students with A grades were being told, are you sure this subject is for you. Students with grade B or below were openly told not to select A Level Maths and most schools have a policy of a minimum grade requirement of a grade B. Now so far these actions have meant that nationwide A Level Maths is the subject with the highest proportion of A and A* grades of any subject which is a little counter intuitive as people recognise it to be one of the most difficult subjects to study. However, because schools have been so selective on who takes the A Level it has meant many achieving the top grades.
With the changes announced in the budget and the additional £600 per pupil that chooses A Level Maths, our question is how will this impact on schools and their selection policies? Will schools relax the minimum grade requirements, will they encourage more lower ability students to select the subject in order to obtain the much needed cash. We are not sure what impact the cash incentive will have but we are confident that schools will start to encourage more people to select A Level Maths which in turn will plug the shortages of Maths teachers and Maths related skills shortages which is the intention that the conservative government has. One important point to mention is that head teachers have come out to say that it is a drop in the ocean when it comes to overall school funding and that further staff cuts will now be inevitable.