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As has been widely reported in the wake of the publication of the Vorderman report: A World-Class Mathematics Education for All Young People - in 2010 almost half of pupils failed to score at least a grade in GCSE maths and only 15 per cent went on to study the subject post GCSE. 

As has been widely reported in the wake of the publication of the Vorderman report: A World-Class Mathematics Education for All Young People - in 2010 almost half of pupils failed to score at least a grade in GCSE maths and only 15 per cent went on to study the subject post GCSE.  So the latest subject and skills gap crisis is in maths.

Call me cynical but not so very long ago it was science, in particular, physics and chemistry which were the cause of much hand wringing. The Roberts report: SET for Success: the supply of people with science, technology, engineering and mathematic skills (2002). The Science Technology, Engineering and Maths Report (2006).  Indeed, over the last 15 years enormous amounts of money have been spent in bolstering engagement and take up of STEM subjects – so what impact has this had for maths as a core STEM component? Not every much it would seem.  London has recently seen much justified debate around literacy levels led by the Evening Standard’s Get London Reading Campaign.

If you add into the mix Ron Dearing’s Languages Review (2006) which looked at the crisis in the teaching of modern foreign languages. Issues raised recently by Michael Gove, Simon Schama and Niall Ferguson about the teaching and take up of history ……… I could go on.  In all of these cases there are issues not only for the efficacy of young people’s education but for the future economy and society more widely. What concerns me is the déjà vu - why are subjects seemingly considered in isolation? We lurch from one subject ‘crisis’ to the next and rehash the same old arguments around the ‘dumbing down’  of subject content and recycling recommendations: the need for specialized teachers, more cpd for teachers, more engaging curricula etc etc I hate to say it, but, do we need to revisit that most hackneyed of questions - what is education for and look at the issues more holistically? Ah  - the  National Curriculum Review I hear you say. But with its focus on the subject content of statutory subjects: English, mathematics, science, physical education and a remit to decide whether subjects such as: modern foreign languages, ICT, history, geography, art and design and citizenship should form part of the national curriculum at all, will this go far enough? Are we already on the way to our next subject crisis?

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