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Friday, 5 April, 2002, 16:39 GMT 17:39 UK
Pupils 'failed' by maths exam
boys in class
AS-level maths proves a challenge for some

Teachers say the shortage of maths specialists in England's secondary schools will only worsen because the new AS-level exams are too hard.

At the annual conference of the NASUWT teachers' union, in Scarborough, delegates accused the government of scoring an "own goal" at a time when schools needed to recruit four out of every 10 maths graduates.

Andy Mulley, a teacher at a sixth form college in Southampton, said: "There are students who in the past would have been able to get through A-level but are now giving up after one year of maths.


Many students come to us in the sixth form having maths as their favourite subject but discover it's their worst and give up

Andy Mulley, teacher
"The country is going to be faced with a very severe difficulty in a couple of years' time.

"The shortage of maths teachers is going to get much, much worse."

He said he had previously sent students off to university who were not great mathematicians but had a great interest in the subject and had become good teachers.

"These very same candidates are being discouraged because they got such low marks in AS maths."

Mr Mulley said the new courses required a maturity candidates did not have, because they took the exams after just one year.

"We are forced into examining students in a rigorous way after less than a year's teaching," he said.

"Own goal"

"In the past we were able to increase their maths maturity during the second year to the point where they were able to succeed in passing A-level maths and doing maths degrees.

"Many students come to us in the sixth form having maths as their favourite subject but discover it's their worst and give up.

"Many university maths departments are finding they are getting disastrously low numbers of applications for maths.

"This is a huge own-goal on the part of the Qualifications and Curriculum Authority (QCA) and Department for Education, which are making so much worse an already dire problem of shortages of maths teachers."

The maths exam was notoriously tough. Almost a third of candidates failed.

Review

The QCA, as part of its review of what went wrong with the introduction of the AS-levels, decided to restructure it so students have the option of postponing one of the units.

The Education Secretary, Estelle Morris, said she hoped the changes would encourage more pupils to study for the full A-level.

The exams body said it was not however changing the level of difficulty of the course.

A spokeswoman for the Department for Education and Skills said: "The recruitment incentives such as golden hellos and training bursaries are helping us to attract more high-quality trainees into teaching.

"Recruitment to teacher training courses in maths was up 20% in 2001-2."

See also:

05 Sep 00 | UK Education
23 Jan 02 | UK Education
04 Apr 01 | UK Education
26 Jun 01 | UK Education
21 Jan 02 | UK Education
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