Gavin Williamson has pledged to open a maths free school “in every region” of England.

The education secretary made the pledge in his speech to the Conservative Party conference.

Currently, only two maths schools are in operation – King’s Maths School in London and Exeter Maths School.

Projects are also currently in the pipeline in Cambridge, Lancaster, Liverpool and Surrey, and Williamson announced today that the government is working with higher and further education leaders to open a maths school in Durham.

Maths schools are 16 to 19 institutions which combine maths A-levels with similar subjects such as physics and computing.

Addressing the conference in Manchester today, the education secretary spoke of the need for “stretching technical education at every level”, and praised Kerry Burnham, the head of Exeter Maths School, who joined him on stage.

“To see what I mean, just look at Kerry’s amazing school. A 16 to 19 maths free school, teaching young maths geniuses to a truly advanced level. Ninety-three per cent of students there got an A or A* in their Maths A-level this year.

“And I can announce today … that we are working with Durham University and Durham Sixth Form Centre to open a new Maths School there. We will open 11 of these so that we have at least one in every region.”

There are technically nine regions of England, and although two maths schools are already in the pipeline for the north west, it is not clear which other region will double up.

The pace of the maths schools programme has been slow. Theresa May pledged to put “a maths school in every city” in January 2017, and later that year the then chancellor Philip Hammond promised an extra £350,000 a year for every new maths school.

However, the project hit a snag when a number of high-profile universities turned down requests to run the institutions, despite an impassioned public plea from schools minister Nick Gibb.