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Compulsory maths 'must be practical'

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Engineers have urged the government to ensure A-level maths has a practical application, after the government moved towards making it compulsory in further education.

Chancellor George Osborne said at this week’s Budget that University of London vice-chancellor Sir Adrian Smith would be asked to consider the feasibility of all students studying maths until they are 18.

Institution of Engineering and Technology head of policy Paul Davies welcomed the move but said education had to be relevant to employment.

“By studying maths until 18, it is likely we will see more young people achieving the qualifications to allow them to go on to study engineering at university – which is good news for the country’s skills shortage and the economy,” said Davies.

“But our latest skills survey shows that both school and university leavers don’t have the right technical and practical skills for industry, so it’s vital that the maths taught to 16-18 year olds has a clear practical application in the workplace. It’s no good just forcing kids to study more mathematical theory that they can’t put into practice.”

He added: “We also need to think about where we are going to find the teachers, given schools are struggling already to find enough maths teachers.”

Osborne said in his Budget speech: “Providing great schooling is the single most important thing we can do to help any child from a disadvantaged background succeed.

“It’s also the single most important thing we can do to boost the long-term productivity of our economy.”

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