From education to employment

Advanced maths attainment gap tackled by new Imperial programme

Imperial college
A school student at an outreach event

Imperial College London has announced plans to raise attainment in advanced mathematics among young people from underrepresented backgrounds.

The world top ten university, home to some of the world’s leading mathematicians, will roll out a new massive open online course (MOOC) for Further Maths A-Level students.

The programme is supported and funded through a long term partnership with The Hg Foundation, a non for profit focusing on education and technology, which officially launched today, supported by Hg, Europe’s leading software and technology services investor.

Raising attainment

A-Level Further Maths is important for studying advanced mathematics at university and helps prepare students for intensive STEM degrees like those at Imperial and for the job market. However, there is a significant attainment gap: in 2018/19 only 36% of students from disadvantaged groups (as defined by the Department for Education) taking Further Maths got an A/A* compared to 53% of those not classed as such.

The new Imperial programme, called Imperial Further mA*ths, will include intensive online support focussed on raising attainment and progression among students from lower income backgrounds or other underrepresented groups affected by the Further Maths attainment gap.

The move follows the announcement earlier this month that Imperial is to develop a new government-backed mathematics school targeting underrepresented groups in partnership with Woodhouse College.

Undergraduate students solving a maths problem

Sustained support

The MOOCs, which will be delivered by Imperial’s academics and students, will offer sustained support throughout years 12 and 13 to help students tackle the most challenging elements of the Further Maths A-Level curriculum. This will be supplemented by tailored e-mentoring and masterclasses, with resources and support also available for A-level teachers to help their students achieve their potential.

The programme aims to reach at least 150 students from underrepresented groups each year from across the UK with its tailored support by 2022, which would represent approximately a sixth of the total number of under-represented students taking Further Maths at A-Level last year. The MOOCs will also be freely available online to students of all backgrounds in the UK and overseas.

The new programme is modelled on Imperial’s existing mA*ths programme for A Level Maths, which was launched in 2019 with Mathematics in Education and Industry (MEI). Already this programme has reached more than 17,000 registered users and provides intensive support for 200 under-represented students a year.

Levelling the playing field

Professor Alice Gast, President of Imperial College London, said: “We believe that a top STEM education should be open to anyone with the right talent and drive. The support of philanthropists like The Hg Foundation helps us to be faster, bigger and bolder in our work to remove barriers at all levels. We are profoundly grateful for their generosity and foresight in supporting this initiative.”

Smart, scalable interventions like this one – generously funded by The Hg Foundation – will help set students up to succeed, levelling the playing field for underrepresented groups and boosting attainment nationwideProfessor Maggie DallmanAssociate Provost

Professor Maggie Dallman, Vice President (International) and Associate Provost (Academic Partnerships), said: “In such challenging times it can be difficult to see past the immediate crisis. But the UK’s attainment gap in mathematics will have serious consequences – for both our young people and for our economy – if it is not addressed. Smart, scalable interventions like this one – generously funded by The Hg Foundation – will help set students up to succeed, levelling the playing field for underrepresented groups and boosting attainment nationwide. Students, schools, and society will reap the benefits in the years to come.”

Sir Kevan Collins, Independent Trustee, The Hg Foundation and former CEO of The Education Endowment Foundation (EEF), said: “Tomorrow’s workplace will increasingly demand STEM skills and backgrounds and we need to act now to ensure these opportunities are available to broader society. The Hg Foundation launches today to help remove barriers to education and skills development in technology. The MOOC is perfectly aligned to what we’re trying to achieve and we’re delighted form this long term partnership with such a highly credible and worthy programme, whilst also offering the support of Hg, which has a vast network and extensive expertise in technology.”

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