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Numeracy can drive the new government's agenda on social mobility

8 Jul 2024

National Numeracy offers its warm congratulations to Prime Minister Sir Keir Starmer and the new UK government.

Prime Minister Sir Kier Starmer outside No 10 Downing Street

As the only charity in the UK dedicated to everyday maths, we are eager for the Prime Minister and Education Secretary Bridget Phillipson to lead urgent and meaningful action to tackle the UK’s numeracy crisis and look forward to working in partnership to achieve our jointly-held mission of a numerate nation.

Numeracy breaks down barriers to opportunity

We were buoyed to see ‘breaking down barriers to opportunity’ as one of the Labour Party’s five key manifesto missions. We believe that numeracy – a key driver of social mobility – can take up a central role in achieving this mission.

The strongest predictor of a person’s numeracy level in the UK is their socio-economic background. Improving skills, confidence and attitudes to numbers and maths can make a real difference to people’s lives by opening up educational, employment and financial opportunities that lead to brighter futures.  

Root maths for children in everyday life

National Numeracy endorses Labour’s commitment to enhancing numeracy skills among young children. We agree that developing vital maths skills early provides a strong foundation for their future lives. We hope to see those skills rooted in everyday life, so that children can see the real-life value of the maths they are learning at school.

One of our charity's priorities is that every child, regardless of attainment level, leaves school feeling confident to use numbers in daily life.

We welcome Labour’s plan for more teachers, in shortage subjects including maths, and curriculum reform around problem-solving and digital skills, which are closely interlinked with numeracy. 

Support the adults that support children with maths

Crucially, we hope to see not just more maths teachers, but for teachers at all stages of school life to be given the support needed to implement maths-positive changes. For Early Years and Primary School teachers support with their own maths confidence is often needed. So, key to building numeracy from early years up, is ensuring the adults that support children feel confident with numbers and maths themselves.

Driving the UK economy through a number confident culture

Our charity has been supporting lifelong learning by empowering hundreds of thousands of adults to improve their numeracy over the past 13 years. We know, first hand, how transformative improved numeracy is for both employees and employers. We hope to see adult numeracy play a strong role in workforce retraining and upskilling, so people have the skills businesses need to drive the UK’s economy.

In order to create a numerate nation, we need a number confident culture that recognises and embraces the value of numeracy to our daily lives and crosses generations. 

Close the gender number confidence gap

Gender inequality is also a key factor for the government’s action around numeracy. The UK is facing a gulf in the number confidence between men and women, which must be addressed at school and in every aspect of adult life.  

Sir Keir’s cabinet is the most gender-balanced in history, and with the country’s first ever female Chancellor of the Exchequer in Rachel Reeves, what better time to act?

Empower communities to lead local numeracy approaches

Low numeracy is spread unevenly throughout the country. Different communities experience the numeracy crisis and its consequences in different ways, so solutions to address it must be as localised as the systemic inequalities that give rise to it.

We would like to see those communities in most need empowered to lead localised approaches to boosting numeracy. 

Numeracy has a crucial 'cradle to career' role to play in this government’s plans

Sam Sims, CEO of National Numeracy said: “We heartily congratulate Sir Keir Starmer and his new government and hope to see policy that uses numeracy as a driver for greater opportunities for both children and adults.

“Numeracy is relevant and valuable to all our lives. It helps us to navigate the world around us, make informed decisions and access opportunities. It is a powerful driver of social mobility. But when it comes to numeracy, too many people are too often left behind. 

“It’s an affront to our society that thousands of young people leave school every year feeling negative and fearful about numbers. These experiences can hold people back for a lifetime.

“But crucially this is changeable. We hope the new government will recognise poor numeracy as a barrier to opportunity – and join us in breaking that barrier down. From the value of learning about everyday maths at school, to the upskilling of our workforce, numeracy has a crucial 'cradle to career' role to play in this government’s plans.”

We’d like to see the Labour government tackle the UK’s numeracy crisis head-on, with the following priorities.

National Numeracy’s top five priorities for the new Labour government:

  • Social mobility – Close the numeracy gap between those from lower socio-economic backgrounds and their wealthier peers.  

  • Gender inclusion – Close the number confidence gap between men and women.  

  • Numeracy for life – Every child, regardless of attainment level, leaves school feeling confident to use numbers in daily life.

  • Attitudes to numeracy – A number confident culture that recognises and embraces the value of numeracy to our daily lives and crosses generations.  

  • Communities – Those communities in most need are empowered to lead localised approaches to boosting numeracy. 


    Picture: The Prime Minister Sir Keir Starmer by Simon Dawson/ No 10 Downing Street

    For media queries, please contact:   
    Cass Lawrence, Head of Communications, National Numeracy 
    [email protected] 
    07852 117 650