A series of radical measures aimed at improving the maths skills and understanding of both adults and children is proposed in a report published today.
In its Manifesto for a Numerate UK, the charity National Numeracy describes poor numeracy – or everyday maths skills – as a ‘national scourge’ and says the arguments for change are overwhelming.
It lists seven proposals designed to transform attitudes and establish a new approach to numeracy throughout school and beyond.
The charity wants to see numeracy become a pervasive part of the school curriculum – with every teacher trained and ready to draw out the elements of numeracy in all subjects. It proposes that a new measure of numeracy proficiency should be introduced for 14-year-olds and that an additional GCSE in numeracy – or core maths – should sit alongside traditional GCSE maths.
For adults, the charity recommends a new adult core curriculum built around the idea of ‘numerate behaviour’ and new approaches to the funding and assessment of adult numeracy learning. It also wants to see more behavioural research into how both adults and children can develop resilience in learning maths.
Underpinning all of this is a call for a change in attitudes to maths and numeracy. The charity proposes a new drive – backed by politicians, employers, teachers and the media – to spread the message that numeracy is a vital life skill and that it can be learnt. It asks everyone in positions of influence – whether parents or broadcasters – to think twice before making disparaging remarks about maths ability and suggests there is a case for ‘naming and shaming’ prominent offenders.
The charity’s manifesto follows various UK and international surveys that place this country behind many others in maths achievement, with half the adult population demonstrating the numeracy skills expected of children at primary school. A report earlier this year from Pro Bono Economics put the cost to the UK – the public purse, business and individuals – at £20 billion.
National Numeracy’s chief executive Mike Ellicock said:
"We know that virtually everyone can become numerate – but there are massive psychological and structural barriers in the way. In this manifesto, we set out some steps for starting to remove them. There’s no quick fix. It’s going to take hard work and a lot of co-operation."
National Association of Mathematics Advisers (NAMA)
The National Association of Mathematics Advisers (NAMA) supports the general thrust of National Numeracy’s Manifesto for a numerate UK. As an organisation committed to teacher professional development and improving learning, we endorse strongly the recommendation that all teachers should be teachers of numeracy.
- Alice Onion, Chair of NAMA said:
"When children see that all their teachers value numeracy, they will be more motivated to persevere with it themselves, growing up to become numerate adults who will be better equipped for living and working in the 21st century.”
- Russell Hobby, general secretary, National Association of Head Teachers said:
"The case for numeracy is compelling and we are pleased to support National Numeracy's manifesto. We work in a time of change, debate and innovation in the teaching of maths. There is much excellent practice in schools but there are also challenges. Struggling with maths is somehow 'acceptable' in a way that problems with reading are not. National Numeracy's campaign can crystallise this debate and challenge these stereotypes, to help every pupil understand and thrive in what is, at its foundations, a mathematical world."
- Joy Mercer, Senior Policy Manager, Association of Colleges said:
"Colleges recognise that numeracy is a vital life skill, but we also know that some people are not able to pass a GCSE with its focus on maths that cannot be entirely linked to the vocational aspirations of young people. Maths is one of the key skills required by employers, and rightly so, but perhaps there should be a different post-16 qualification more in line with the skills people actually need for the workplace."
- Stephen Uden, Head of Corporate Citizenship, Nationwide Building Society said:
"Nationwide is proud to continue to support the aims of National Numeracy, particularly as their activity complements our own ongoing work to improve the everyday number skills of young people through our Talking Numbers programme and Nationwide Education. A lack of everyday number skills not only threatens the economy and the competitiveness of the country’s job market but can also ruin an individual’s chances in life. Improving numeracy, at any age, can make a positive change; whether it’s parents helping children with their homework, or anyone making better financial choices or improving employability. We urge others to get behind this really important improvement drive, whether it’s to enhance their own prospects or to provide the support for others to enhance theirs."
- Caroline Rookes, CEO, Money Advice Service said:
"The Money Advice Service is committed to improving the financial capability of the UK, and numeracy is an important component of this. We welcome this initiative and hope it succeeds in enhancing numeracy among the population."
- Duncan Baldwin, Deputy Director (Policy), Association of School and College Leaders (ASCL) said:
"ASCL recognises the crucial importance of maximising levels of numeracy within the adult population. High levels of numeracy are essential if our workforce is to succeed in an increasingly technological economy; and they are also essential for a participative democracy such as ours to flourish. In order to achieve high levels of numeracy, it is essential that, as a nation, we do all we can to ensure people view numeracy positively: dismissive comments such as ‘I’m no good with numbers’ or ‘I could never do Maths when I was at school’ risk entrenching precisely the opposite view-point. ASCL therefore welcomes the National Numeracy Forum’s work to promote Numeracy both in schools and in the population as a whole, and looks forward to continuing to work closely with the Forum to take this agenda forward with ASCL members leading secondary schools and colleges."
- Every Child Counts:
"Every Child Counts and National Numeracy share a common drive to improve attitudes to mathematics in the UK, benefitting individual children and learners and the wider society."
- Tom Wilson, Director, Unionlearn said:
"Unionlearn helps unions to actively support adult maths learning in the workplace. Trade unions have an excellent track record in engaging working people to update their numeracy skills, especially through the active support of union learning representatives. Many employees need to improve their maths skills at some stage in their working lives and employers now have an opportunity to do much more to help their staff. Using tools such as the Numeracy Challenge offers everyone a chance to develop their skills."