Rishi Sunak to make maths compulsory for pupils until age 18

Rishi Sunak will unveil plans to make it compulsory to study some form of maths until the age of 18, in a drive to ensure the UK rivals the best education systems in the world.

However, the change will not come about until after the next election, which opinion polls currently suggest the Conservatives will lose to Labour.

In his first public engagement of the year, Mr Sunak will use a speech in central London to warn that the jobs of the future will require more analytical skills than ever before.

“Letting our children out into the world without those skills, is letting our children down,” he will say.

He will also point to the fact that, unlike many other countries, just half of all 16-19-year-olds study maths.

Mr Sunak is understood to want a revolution in numeracy to mirror that seen in literacy in recent decades and sees it as part of a mission that could help create a better future for Britain.

However, maths A-Level will not be compulsory for all. Instead, ministers are looking at pupils taking some form of maths course alongside other subjects.

The A-level system narrows the number of subjects teenagers study more quickly than in other countries. Critics say this hampers the drive to create all-rounders, while supporters say it allows students to adapt more quickly to the rigours of a university course.

In his speech, Mr Sunak, who was educated at Winchester College, will say: “This is personal for me. Every opportunity I’ve had in life began with the education I was so fortunate to receive.

“And it’s the single most important reason why I came into politics: to give every child the highest possible standard of education.”

He will praise previous Conservative governments saying that thanks to their reforms, and the hard work of teachers, “incredible progress” has been made.

He will also say that with the “right commitment to excellence – I see no reason why we cannot rival the best education systems in the world”.

Work on the changes will begin in this parliament, but will not be completed until after the next election, creating a challenge for Labour, who would have to decide to scrap the idea or push ahead with it.

It is thought that around eight million adults in England have the numeracy skills of a primary school child.

Many developed countries including Canada, Germany, Finland, Japan and the US require maths to be studied until 18.

The measure would be designed to ensure benefits for daily life as well as in the job market, including giving pupils the skills to feel confident with finances in later life, such as finding the best mortgage deal or savings rate.

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