STUDENTS TAKING maths degrees should have their fees and loans paid off to reverse the decline in the subject, a government inquiry concluded yesterday.
An inquiry into post-14 maths, headed by Professor Adrian Smith, the principal of Queen Mary College, London, also warned that maths teachers should be paid at least pounds 5,000 more than their colleagues in other subjects to bring teaching salaries in line with other careers available to maths graduates.
Professor Smith criticised the current system as well as government reforms, arguing that maths teaching was in crisis and needed a pounds 150m rescue package.
The 171-page report, Making Mathematics Count, said modern maths teaching failed to meet the needs of pupils, teachers, universities and employers. Professor Smith said maths was vital to the economy and should be treated as a special case.
He condemned the Government's reform of A-levels three years ago as a "complete and utter disaster for maths". Splitting the course into two equal parts to create an AS level "simply doesn't work", he said at the report's launch in London.
This had resulted in 20 per cent fewer students taking maths A- levels and contributed to a decrease in the number of maths undergraduates and teachers at a time when demand for maths graduates was rising.
He criticised GCSE maths for failing children of all abilities. He called for it to be reclassified as worth two GCSEs as with other core subjects such as English and science.
Exam league tables had had a "perverse and negative" effect on school mathematics. Instead of "teaching the joy of mathematics", teachers concentrated on the next exam module, Professor Smith said.
More than 30 per cent of maths in schools is taught by teachers without a degree in the subject. The report warned that secondary schools are short of 3,400 maths teachers - equivalent to more than one for every comprehensive in the country - despite government incentives which offer maths graduates up to pounds 10,000 to train as teachers.
The report said: "The shortage of specialist mathematics teachers is the most serious problem we face in ensuring the future supply of people with appropriate mathematical skills."
A quarter of people qualified to teach maths were teaching another subject, Professor Smith said, raising "serious issues" about how schools deployed staff.
He warned that the teaching profession, which disapproves of differential pay rates, as well as ministers would have to accept that "market forces" should dictate salaries for maths teachers, who can earn more in the City. …