A charity will offer hundreds of secondary schools almost £3,000 to fund a “maths champion” in a bid to make it the “SAS of subjects”, as an ex-government adviser warned 30,000 promising pupils are “lost” by year 11.
The Mathematics Education for Social Mobility and Excellence charity (MESME), set up by Russian-born billionaire philanthropist Alex Gerko, has today been rebranded as Axiom Maths.
The charity, headed up by former Department for Education adviser David Thomas, has announced today it will hand schools money to fund time off timetable or extra payments for “maths champions” who will work to keep high-attainers interested in the subject.
Thomas said he wanted to “change the national perception of maths from being treated as a subject people ‘celebrate’ being bad at, to being seen as the SAS of subjects that unlocks the future, opening up opportunities in AI and the jobs of the future”.
Axiom today warned of a “significant decline in interest and attainment particularly during the transition to secondary school”.
The charity’s analysis of research by the University of Nottingham estimated that around 30,000 pupils who achieved top maths results in their key stage 2 SATs do not get a grade 7 or above in the subject at GCSE.
Axiom said its analysis found this figure was almost double the number of vacancies for STEM-related jobs in England, which currently stands at 16,000.
The situation is worse for disadvantaged pupils, with almost half of those with top SATs grades not getting grade 7 at GCSE.
‘Crucial window of opportunity’
Thomas said there was a “crucial window of opportunity to stop young talent slipping through the net in years 7 and 8”.
“We’re finding and nurturing these young people, providing a like-minded social group and an exciting experience of maths.
“The aim is to make them feel special and valued at an uneasy time of transition, exciting them about the boundless places their talent can take them.”
The maths champion money – initially £2,700 per participating school – will be used to either fund teaching and learning responsibility (TLR) payments or a timetable reduction for a maths champion.
These champions will then work with Axiom to “implement a package of support for high-attainers, including weekly maths circles”.
In maths circles a “small group of students will come together regularly with a mentor to grapple with intriguing questions, explore exciting ideas, and learn to think like mathematicians”.
Axiom has not said exactly how much money is on offer overall, but said it wants to help “hundreds” of schools. The per-school funding on offer may rise depending on future inflation.
The charity has also published the results of a survey it commissioned of 2,000 pupils in years 6 to 9.
It found that when high-attaining primary pupils transitioned to secondary school, they became 25 per cent less likely to say maths was fun, 40 per cent more likely to say it was not challenging enough and twice as likely to describe it as boring.
Thomas said they needed to be “straight with young people – maths isn’t always easy but it is hugely rewarding for those who persist”.
Schools wanting to participate in the maths champions scheme from September can sign up online at axiommaths.com