Page last updated at 12:49 GMT, Monday, 5 January 2009

UK maths failures 'cost 2.4bn'

A schoolteacher and pupils
Businesses are being asked to provide funding to help children learn maths

Children who are bad at maths at school end up costing the taxpayer up to 2.4bn a year, a report suggests.

Accountants KPMG tracked children with poor numeracy and found they were more likely to be unemployed, claim more benefits and pay less tax.

Now the Every Child a Chance Trust wants businesses to help raise 6m for projects at primary schools.

John Griffith-Jones, chairman of the trust, said he was "deeply concerned about the high costs of innumeracy".

Every Child a Chance Trust wants local businesses to make annual contributions of 12,000 each, for three years, to schools in their area.

Businesses will also be encouraged to supply volunteers to become "Number Partners", to help children with their sums.

Barclays Bank has signed on to be the first national sponsor for the project, pledging 1.2m.

We are very conscious that every child needs basic numeracy skills for survival
Mike Amato, Barclays

The report by KPMG estimates that the long-term costs of children leaving schools unable to do maths could be as high as 44,000 per individual up to the age of 37.

The funding being raised is for the Every Child Counts early intervention programme, in which children aged seven who have the greatest difficulties with numbers are given half an hour individual tuition every day, by specially trained teachers over about 12 weeks.

'Nationwide plan'

Mr Griffith-Jones, who is also chairman of KPMG, added: "As a business whose people are highly numerate, it seems only right that we should help to do something about the 30,000 children who leave primary schools each year, barely able to do the simplest calculations.

"The charity has therefore devised this nationwide plan, implemented locally, and we very much hope that the business community will respond."

Mike Amato, head of distribution and product at Barclays, said: "We are very conscious that every child needs basic numeracy skills for survival.

"In the current complex financial climate, it makes economic sense to intervene early with youngsters to help them develop core numeracy skills which will help them manage their finances one day successfully, which in turn helps to drastically reduce the costs to society as detailed in this report."

A spokeswoman for England's Department for Children, Schools and Families said: "Let's be clear: the picture in maths is a positive one.

"A recent international study showed that we are leading Europe in maths and science at age 14 and we have risen 11 places in international league tables since 2003 to seventh place.

"Young people in England also understand the importance of maths with 74% of students aged 14 saying they valued the subject highly.

"Of course there is more we can do and catch up and stretch classes will ensure those falling behind get the additional support they need whilst those who excel are kept motivated."

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