Professor Donald said: “Mathematics is a fundamental part of our everyday life and is utilised in an increasingly wide number of areas of employment, as well as being the cornerstone of modern science. Despite this, as highlighted in this new report, only a small proportion of young people currently study mathematics beyond the age of 16 and even fewer at higher education level. In early 2011 in our fourth State of the nation report, the Royal Society identified this shortfall and the impact that it is having on numbers of both specialist teachers, who inspire future generations to study these subjects, and potential new employees with the mathematical skills required by employers. We strongly support – and have ourselves recommended – Carol Vorderman’s proposal that all young people should study some form of mathematics to the age of eighteen.
We also welcome the report’s emphasis on specialist primary and secondary school teachers. The severe lack of teachers in primary schools with specific subject knowledge in science and mathematics was highlighted in the Royal Society’s third State of the nation report last year and we are pleased to see this major concern raised again in the report. All subjects are best taught by teachers who know their subject well, are excited by it and are supported in teaching it with relevant, up-to-date continuous professional development. In the case of both mathematics and science, Royal Society research has demonstrated that specialist teachers play a vital role in inspiring young people in the joy and wonder of science and mathematics, enabling them to achieve their full potential and encouraging further study. Only by prioritising study of these subjects can we ensure that there will be enough suitably qualified individuals to meet future demand for specialist teachers.”