A senior civil servant has said it could become compulsory for trainee teachers to study for a maths qualification higher than a GCSE

Trainee teachers may have to study maths to 18

Would-be teachers could be required to study maths up to the age of 18 in the future in a bid to raise standards in schools.

A senior civil servant said that it could become compulsory for trainees to study for a maths qualification higher than a GCSE in order to enter the classroom as a maths expert warns current maths requirements for trainee primary teachers "just doesn't do it".

David Burghes, director of the Centre for Innovation in Mathematics Teaching at Plymouth University is calling for all primary teachers to hold an AS or A-level-style qualification in maths.

Under the current system a teacher trainee must have at least a C grade at GCSE in English and maths, while those planning to teach seven to 14-year-olds must also have this grade in science.

But Burghes, who has published a new pamphlet on the Government's proposed primary maths curriculum for the Politeia think tank, says that this is out of line with other countries who demand higher qualifications of their teacher trainees.

"I think a C in GCSE maths just doesn't do it," he says. "If you look at the marks for grade C you can be right at the top end of the spectrum nearly at a grade B and you'll be a different sort of person to one who just scraped a C the second time around."

He adds: "I think there should be some sort of A-level or AS-level mathematical qualification for all primary teachers. Some would do it potentially when they are at school, others when they are training, just to make sure they have understood all the background.

"We want them to understand what the real concepts are in mathematics and what they are working towards when they are teaching in those first few years of primary."

Education Secretary Michael Gove has previously said that within a decade, he wants to see the vast majority of teenagers studying maths up to the age of 18, and the Government is currently developing a new set of post-16 qualifications in the subject. These will be particularly aimed at students who do not want to study A-level maths.

Speaking at the launch of Burghes' document, Stephen Rogers, team leader for raising standards in maths and science at the Department for Education (DfE) said: "We are currently working on developing a new suite of qualifications for maths.

"These will serve many purposes, one of those is we hope that it may become a requirement for any teacher, particularly primary teachers."

It is understood that there is no intention to make this a compulsory requirement at this stage, and it would be a decision for the future.

Burghes also calls for primary school pupils to learn basic algebra and multiplication tables up to 10 times 10 in the first two years of compulsory schooling and he says that primary-age children should begin to learn about probability, rather than leaving the topic until they start secondary school.

The Government's draft primary maths curriculum calls for pupils to be taught multiplication tables up to 12 times 12 by the time they are nine years old, with algebra introduced in Year 6 – the final year of primary school.

He says he recently worked with a group of GCSE students and had been "amazed" to find that some were still struggling to understand basic topics, such as fractions, that they have been learning for several years.

"Somehow, our teaching doesn't seem to quite match up to other countries that at least appear to get the understanding in when it's first taught either the first or the second time," he says.

A DfE spokesman said: "We are thinking about how to get more teachers with post-16 maths qualifications into primary schools to teach maths. We are not thinking about requiring all primary teachers to have post-16 maths qualifications."

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