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Schools White Paper: Reaction from Sam Sims, Chief Executive of National Numeracy

28 Mar 2022

Sam Sims, Chief Executive of National Numeracy

‘Opportunities for all’, the first schools white paper in six years, has been published today with a raft of initiatives aimed at improving numeracy in primary and secondary education across the country. 

As previously set out in the Levelling Up white paper, today’s publication sets out the expectation that 90% of primary school children will achieve the expected standard in Key Stage 2 reading, writing and maths by 2030. 

Sam Sims

Introducing the paper, Education Secretary Nadhim Zahawi said: “This is levelling up in action…Any child who falls behind in maths or English will get the support they need to get back on track.” 

As the Secretary and his white paper point out, numeracy, along with literacy, is the bedrock of a great education, unlocking the whole curriculum and turbocharging social mobility. And National Numeracy couldn’t agree more; the role of numeracy is critical to wider learning and life chances. We are encouraged to hear the Secretary of State acknowledging this understanding in the aims and approaches the paper sets out.  

The ambition of increasing the national GCSE average grade in Maths from 4.5 to 5 combined with the aim, previously announced in the Levelling Up White Paper, for 90% of primary school children to achieve the expected standard in maths and increasing the percentage of children meeting the expected standard in the worst performing areas by a third, is particularly welcomed by National Numeracy. 

Given that GSCE maths grades are largely norm-referenced within a cohort and the grade distribution compared to the cohort’s attainment at Key Stage 2, we look forward to hearing more detail about how this will be achieved in practice and in a way that is both fair to all and promises to close the attainment gap. 

Equally important and welcomed by National Numeracy is the focus on parent and carer engagement with children’s learning through the Parent Pledge. At National Numeracy, we know that children will be more engaged with maths if their parents and carers are part of the process. In particular, parents and carers can play a powerful role in helping children to build both number confidence and positive attitudes about the value of maths throughout our lives. 

As the UK's only charity dedicated to everyday maths, we believe that every child should leave school with the skills and confidence to use maths in everyday life, an understanding of the value that maths can bring to their lives and a belief that, however they did at school, they can always improve. We therefore welcome the aspects of the White Paper that will help make this a reality.