Opinion: Maths & English

Opinion: Chris Jones discusses the need to give young people the Maths and English education they deserve.

18 July 2012

Chris Jones, CEO and Director General of City & Guilds, discusses the need to give young people the Maths and English education they deserve:

"The discussion about poor levels of numeracy and literacy and the way young people are taught Maths and English in the UK, has been hitting the headlines in recent months. A study by the Sutton Trust showed that English teenagers are half as likely as those in the average developed nation to reach higher levels in Maths, whilst the charity, National Numeracy, released a report revealing that millions of people in the UK are so poor at Maths they are unable to pay a household bill. Meanwhile, results from last year's Key Stage 2 tests show that around 100,000 pupils in England failed to reach the expected standard in English. This means that around 16 per cent fail to master the basics of reading and 25 per cent the basics of writing at the end of primary school. The failings of primary schools create huge gaps in ability by GCSE and higher level. Collectively these studies provide a clear but shameful picture. Both poor numeracy and literacy are hidden problems that blight both the UK economy and the career prospects of young people.

At City & Guilds we looked into the views of young people aged 7 – 18 around education and employment, and found that overwhelmingly young people regard classroom Maths boring, difficult or irrelevant, despite 69% confirming that they believe Maths as a subject can help them become successful. The study, Ways into Work, also revealed that 54% of 16 – 18 year olds commented unprompted that taught Maths should be geared towards real life, relevant and practical scenarios.

It would be all too easy to blindly continue with the current Maths education system that our research clearly shows is putting so many young people off the subject and failing to meet their needs. However the time has now come where we can wait no longer to listen to learners who are telling us that the way Maths is currently being taught is switching them off the subject completely. "


Our research reveals that three quarters of young people demand skills-based training to achieve their ambitions Read full research article