School of Education

Rethinking the Value of Advanced Mathematics Participation

A new report from the School of Education's Head of School, Professor Andrew Noyes, and Research Fellow Dr Michael Adkins  has just been published.

Participation in A-level* mathematics courses in England has been rising for over ten years, but concerns remain. International comparisons show England to have one of the lowest levels of post-16 mathematics engagement amongst developed countries. At the same time, several econometric analyses report increased wage returns to mathematics qualifications. These two factors, together with sustained pressure from stakeholders, led to the 2011 call from the then Secretary of State, Michael Gove, for the ‘vast majority’ of young people to be studying mathematics up to 18 by the end of the decade. More recently, this political aspiration was reiterated by the Chancellor in his March 2016 budget, though with a longer timescale.

The Rethinking the Value of Advanced Mathematics Participation (REVAMP) project was funded by the Nuffield Foundation and set out to investigate the value of A level Mathematics from several viewpoints. The project comprised four strands of quantitative analysis:

  1. Updated research on economic returns to A level Mathematics
  2. Analysis of changing participation in A level Mathematics from 2005-13
  3. Modelling of the relationship between A level Mathematics and degree outcomes
  4. A national survey of ten thousand 17-year-olds

The project utilised high-quality secondary datasets from the 1970 British Cohort Study (BCS), the National Pupil Database (NPD) and the Higher Education Statistics Agency (HESA). It also included a national survey of ten thousand 17-year-olds that investigated students’ understandings of the value of advanced mathematics for their educational and life choices and aspirations.

These quantitative studies were complemented with a policy trajectory analysis that traced the value(s) attributed to A level Mathematics, in particular its economic value. This strand of the study included an analysis of grey literature from 2000-2015 in order to understand how key research ideas get taken up by policy makers and influence practice.

*including AS and A Levels in Mathematics and Further Mathematics, Use of Mathematics and Statistics

Download full report

Visit REVAMP project webpage


Posted on Saturday 7th January 2017

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