Last year a quarter of a million students passed GCSE maths, and then dropped the subject completely. With recent YouGov polling indicating that over 80% of business leaders are looking for employees with practical maths skills, the chasm between employers' needs and employees' abilities is growing wider by the day.

Businesses are rapidly growing aware of this skills gap, with 62% of them saying that young people are disadvantaged in the global jobs race due to their lack of maths skills. In our rapidly changing job market, the danger is that many companies will move their operations to countries where those skills are available. In short, increasing the number of post-16 students doing maths is a major challenge that has to be met across Britain.

To help improve the future prosperity and life chances of young people in the UK, we need to help them prepare for the challenges that lie ahead. That's why we need to help more young people who achieve GCSE maths (grade C or above) to continue with maths. We need to help students appreciate the relevance of maths to everyday life, including current and future studies and work opportunities.

A Higher Education Academy (HEA) Mathematics Transitions report investigated the mathematical and statistical requirements of university degrees in Business and Management, Chemistry, Computing, Economics, Geography, Sociology and Psychology. They discovered over 80,000 students struggled to meet the mathematical demands of these courses. Also, around 178,100 of 16 to 18-year-olds failed to complete the post-16 qualifications they had embarked upon in 2012-13. These problems could be addressed if maths qualifications were made more relevant to young people's future career prospects and their everyday lives.

From agriculture to transport and logistics it is easy to spot the growing employer demand for maths skills. In a recent visit to an agricultural college, a teacher explained to me that her students responded very well to mathematical questions that were rooted in real life situations they covered within their courses. One maths puzzle asked students how much milk yield they could expect from a herd of dairy cattle feeding off so many hectares. The students were able to work out in their heads exactly how many litres of milk on average the herd would return. This proved far more effective than the abstract algebra equation that would have yielded the same result.

It is clear that for today's students, their employment prospects on leaving education are strongly influenced by their ability and confidence in using mathematics. This affects all individuals, from those requiring basic numeracy and financial awareness, to those using high level maths. We must recognise that for the majority of students, their requirements are different from those who study mathematics in preparation for studying degree-level mathematics.

A new DfE funded Core Maths Support Programme run by the CfBT Education Trust aims to tackle this precise challenge.

Professor Paul Glaister from Reading University states: "This is the most the significant development in 16-19 mathematics education in a generation". The nature of Core Maths qualifications are intentionally different from a student's typical experience at GCSE. The aim is to make the course accessible through students encountering problems that are set in a realistic context. Thus making mathematics more meaningful and addressing the criticism that mathematics is not relevant to everyday life.

Most importantly, Core Maths gives young people an incentive to want to stay with maths beyond GCSEs, in turn helping boost their confidence in applying maths skills to a wide range of settings within work, study and life. This is a simple solution to a complex challenge, but one which should be blindingly obvious to all!

Dr Deirdre Hughes OBE is chair of the Promoting Core Maths Senior Advisory Board for the Core Maths Support Programme. She is also Principal Research Fellow, Warwick University, Institute for Employment Research (IER)

You may also be interested in these articles:

Sponsored Video

Register, Login or Login with your Social Media account:


Upcoming FE Events

Advertiser Skyscrapers

Latest Education News

Further Education News

The FE News Channel gives you the latest education news and updates on emerging education strategies and the #FutureofEducation and the #FutureofWork.

Providing trustworthy and positive Further Education news and views since 2003, we are a digital news channel with a mixture of written word articles, podcasts and videos. Our specialisation is providing you with a mixture of the latest education news, our stance is always positive, sector building and sharing different perspectives and views from thought leaders, to provide you with a think tank of new ideas and solutions to bring the education sector together and come up with new innovative solutions and ideas.

FE News publish exclusive peer to peer thought leadership articles from our feature writers, as well as user generated content across our network of over 3000 Newsrooms, offering multiple sources of the latest education news across the Education and Employability sectors.

FE News also broadcast live events, podcasts with leading experts and thought leaders, webinars, video interviews and Further Education news bulletins so you receive the latest developments in Skills News and across the Apprenticeship, Further Education and Employability sectors.

Every week FE News has over 200 articles and new pieces of content per week. We are a news channel providing the latest Further Education News, giving insight from multiple sources on the latest education policy developments, latest strategies, through to our thought leaders who provide blue sky thinking strategy, best practice and innovation to help look into the future developments for education and the future of work.

In May 2020, FE News had over 120,000 unique visitors according to Google Analytics and over 200 new pieces of news content every week, from thought leadership articles, to the latest education news via written word, podcasts, video to press releases from across the sector.

We thought it would be helpful to explain how we tier our latest education news content and how you can get involved and understand how you can read the latest daily Further Education news and how we structure our FE Week of content:

Main Features

Our main features are exclusive and are thought leadership articles and blue sky thinking with experts writing peer to peer news articles about the future of education and the future of work. The focus is solution led thought leadership, sharing best practice, innovation and emerging strategy. These are often articles about the future of education and the future of work, they often then create future education news articles. We limit our main features to a maximum of 20 per week, as they are often about new concepts and new thought processes. Our main features are also exclusive articles responding to the latest education news, maybe an insight from an expert into a policy announcement or response to an education think tank report or a white paper.

FE Voices

FE Voices was originally set up as a section on FE News to give a voice back to the sector. As we now have over 3,000 newsrooms and contributors, FE Voices are usually thought leadership articles, they don’t necessarily have to be exclusive, but usually are, they are slightly shorter than Main Features. FE Voices can include more mixed media with the Further Education News articles, such as embedded podcasts and videos. Our sector response articles asking for different comments and opinions to education policy announcements or responding to a report of white paper are usually held in the FE Voices section. If we have a live podcast in an evening or a radio show such as SkillsWorldLive radio show, the next morning we place the FE podcast recording in the FE Voices section.

Sector News

In sector news we have a blend of content from Press Releases, education resources, reports, education research, white papers from a range of contributors. We have a lot of positive education news articles from colleges, awarding organisations and Apprenticeship Training Providers, press releases from DfE to Think Tanks giving the overview of a report, through to helpful resources to help you with delivering education strategies to your learners and students.


We have a range of education podcasts on FE News, from hour long full production FE podcasts such as SkillsWorldLive in conjunction with the Federation of Awarding Bodies, to weekly podcasts from experts and thought leaders, providing advice and guidance to leaders. FE News also record podcasts at conferences and events, giving you one on one podcasts with education and skills experts on the latest strategies and developments.

We have over 150 education podcasts on FE News, ranging from EdTech podcasts with experts discussing Education 4.0 and how technology is complimenting and transforming education, to podcasts with experts discussing education research, the future of work, how to develop skills systems for jobs of the future to interviews with the Apprenticeship and Skills Minister.

We record our own exclusive FE News podcasts, work in conjunction with sector partners such as FAB to create weekly podcasts and daily education podcasts, through to working with sector leaders creating exclusive education news podcasts.

Education Video Interviews

FE News have over 700 FE Video interviews and have been recording education video interviews with experts for over 12 years. These are usually vox pop video interviews with experts across education and work, discussing blue sky thinking ideas and views about the future of education and work.


FE News has a free events calendar to check out the latest conferences, webinars and events to keep up to date with the latest education news and strategies.

FE Newsrooms

The FE Newsroom is home to your content if you are a FE News contributor. It also help the audience develop relationship with either you as an individual or your organisation as they can click through and ‘box set’ consume all of your previous thought leadership articles, latest education news press releases, videos and education podcasts.

Do you want to contribute, share your ideas or vision or share a press release?

If you want to write a thought leadership article, share your ideas and vision for the future of education or the future of work, write a press release sharing the latest education news or contribute to a podcast, first of all you need to set up a FE Newsroom login (which is free): once the team have approved your newsroom (all content, newsrooms are all approved by a member of the FE News team- no robots are used in this process!), you can then start adding content (again all articles, videos and podcasts are all approved by the FE News editorial team before they go live on FE News). As all newsrooms and content are approved by the FE News team, there will be a slight delay on the team being able to review and approve content.

 RSS IconRSS Feed Selection Page