Downing Street has reportedly ditched a campaign to promote Rishi Sunak’s “maths to 18” policy after officials obtained only one case study – a film-maker who believes the proposal to be “misguided” and “tone deaf”.
The prime minister’s office appears to have left it until the last minute to seek endorsements from people across British industry for a social media push, the Times reports. Stephen Follows, a leading film data analyst, was approached on Friday, three days before the PM relaunched the policy with a speech in London.
Follows was never asked whether he agreed with Sunak’s mission for mandatory maths for all students beyond GCSE to the age of 18.
Writing for the Times, Follows, who says he was approached last Friday to become a “maths champion” for the campaign, said: “Nobody thought to ask me whether I support this policy”.
He added: “I’m delighted to have this platform to share my views because I think their one-size-fits-all policy is misguided, tone deaf to the actual needs of students and may even be counterproductive.
“To prioritise maths over these skills is shortsighted, out of touch and grossly unfair on students,” he writes.
“Forcing students to study maths until the age of 18 risks stifling the passions and interests of individual students, the very qualities that education should be cultivating.
“Instead of imposing a blanket requirement that many will resent, schools should focus on helping students discover who they are and then provide the necessary support and resources for them to become the best version of that person.”
Follows said instead of a “hurried, last-minute” search for individuals who use maths in their job, policymakers at No 10 should “apply themselves to understanding the diverse educational needs of students and to researching and developing strategies that encourage individual growth and empower our young people”.
Downing Street has been approached for comment.
Sunak first set out his plans to make it compulsory for everyone to study maths in some form up to the age of 18, rather than the current minimum of 16, in a speech in early January.
Critics, including opposition parties, said the promise was meaningless without a coherent plan, including money to recruit and train more maths teachers.
Relaunching the policy on Monday, Sunak admitted the UK needed time to recruit more maths teachers, adding that the plan would not involve forcing students in England to study the subject to A-level.
Rishi Sunak: it should not be socially acceptable to joke about being bad at maths – video
Speaking at the London Screen Academy, a sixth-form college in Islington, Sunak mounted a robust defence of the policy, saying it was his personal passion to change the “anti-maths mindset” that made it acceptable to joke about having poor numeracy. But he gave no guarantees that the changes would be made before the next election.
A UK Government spokesperson said: “The government communicates policy detail to the public in a number of different ways. We published a range of Maths to 18 content yesterday across all of our digital channels to highlight the vital importance of maths in different sectors.”
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