Research by National Numeracy suggests that people’s negative attitudes when it comes to maths, stem from school’s and teacher’s inability to inspire individuals.
Maths remains unpopular among students; fewer than 20% of students continue with maths beyond 16 which is lower than many other countries. Vacancies are the hardest to fill in schools, there are five times more applicants for teaching positions in arts and humanities subjects.
Graduate Teacher Training Registry reveals that applications for maths PGCES (which require a minimum 2.2) were down 10% this year and estimates suggest that there are only 1.6 applications per maths vacancy; maths teachers are in real demand as the pool of graduate mathematicians is decreasing.
The importance of other necessary teaching qualities, such as good communication skills, must not be overlooked when it comes to schools employing teachers. So despite some maths graduates excelling academically, if their ability to engage students isn’t up to scratch then they won’t be successful.
‘Your best bet might be Maths. Due to the real shortage of Maths teachers, you can currently do a secondary Maths PGCE with just A level Maths, IF you take a Subject Knowledge Enhancement course before you start the PGCE.’
Some students discussed how, despite their degree not being in a Maths subject, if there is at least 50% Maths content they would be able to pursue their aspirations:
‘Having said that, there is a shortage of maths teachers, which vastly increases your chances, but my advice would be to do the A-level and get school experience first for a year or so, then reassess whether you want to teach it. You should be able to tell from the degree modules whether there is 50% maths in it.’
Incentives to improve the situation include the recent introduction of 20k bursaries for those entering maths teaching with first-class degrees and the Graduate Teacher Programme offering paid training. Out of over 1,300 teachers trained by Teach First over the past two years close to a quarter are maths specialised.
As schools become free to control salaries the short fall of maths teachers may mean that financial bidding will come into play to encourage graduates into teaching for shortage subjects.