Warning as new league table measure unveiled


Plans for a new league table measure detailing the proportion of students studying maths and physics at A level have not been thought through, it has been claimed.

Education minister Liz Truss unveiled the new performance indicator last week. It will show what proportion of boys and girls studying A levels are taking maths, further maths or physics at each school.

The move will see data from 2012/13 published next month, with statistics then being published within the annual league tables from January 2015.

Ms Truss said: “That will mean everyone is able to identify the science deserts – those areas of the country with low or no science teaching to an advanced level. Across the country, almost one in five schools have no pupils doing physics.

“We’ve seen, since the introduction of the EBacc, record numbers of pupils taking triple science GCSE. This new transparency measure will help carry that through to A level.

“And it will be clear – if you’ve only got five per cent of your pupils doing A level maths; what that means for the local economy; and for the hopes and dreams of your parents and students; and where we need to act.”

The announcement is the latest in a series of initiatives aimed at boosting maths and physics study.

However, both school leaders and teachers this week voiced concerns, saying a league table measure was not the right way to boost the subjects and that government cuts to 6th form funding also needed to be addressed.

Brian Lightman, general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders, said: “Accountability measures carry the risk of unintended consequences. The curriculum should not be driven by the accountability system, but rather by good teaching and the needs of the learners.

“We know these are important subjects, and schools and colleges already work hard to increase uptake. But the reality is that 6th form funding is at dangerously low levels and schools and colleges are making tough, pragmatic choices in order to ensure their survival. No matter how much they might wish to, some schools may not be able to put on such courses because they are not financially viable.

“We are also seeing a worrying shortage of maths and physics teachers around the country. Schools simply cannot recruit suitably qualified teachers in these subjects, at every level.”

Nansi Ellis, assistant general secretary at the Association of Teachers and Lecturers, added: “Of course more young people, particularly girls, should be encouraged to study maths and physics to A level. But this has not been properly thought through and just smacks of another stick to beat schools with.

“Following this government’s cuts to post-16 education, how will extra classes be funded? And where will the additional maths and physics teachers come from to teach these subjects?

“Ironically, by de-coupling AS levels from A levels and cutting funding for 16 to 18-year-olds education, this government has made it likely that young people will study fewer subjects at 6th form.”


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