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New practical maths lessons to prepare teens for world of work

16-year-olds taught to apply business-backed maths knowledge, including working out interest rates and profit margins.

Students will be taught how to apply their maths skills to calculate interest, work out profit margins and get the best currency exchange rates thanks to a new suite of practical maths courses starting in schools this week.

The core maths qualifications, backed by some of the country’s biggest employers, are designed to give young people the maths knowledge they need in everyday life - whether they want to run their own business or lead a company.

The new courses address the ‘maths gap’ where students often forget the vital maths knowledge they have learned because they do not keep using it.

They are part of the government’s commitment to ensuring all young people, regardless of ability or background, have access to the best education - including rigorous qualifications which help them get on in life.

The courses will help students to:

  • increase their confidence in managing their personal finances, including examples on interest rates, mortgage repayments and tax contributions
  • better understand which mathematical approach to use to help them solve problems across a range of workplace and commercial settings
  • present real-life situations in mathematical terms and use their own maths skills to answer related questions and issues

Schools Minister Nick Gibb said:

Maths skills aren’t just used in the classroom - they are vital in everyday life, whether you are running your own business or trying to pick the best mortgage.

That is why this one nation government is giving our young people the opportunity to develop the practical maths skills which will help them succeed.

Lindsay McCurdy, CEO, Apprenticeships4England, said:

Good numeracy skills are important for all apprentices. The real life mathematics skills students learn on the new core maths qualification will benefit not only their future employers but give the students and apprentices confidence to tackle and solve problems in their everyday lives too.

Will Butler-Adams OBE, Managing Director of Brompton Bicycles Ltd, said:

At Brompton, as with every business, maths runs through our organisation; design, purchasing, budgeting and profit and loss. It affects all areas HR, Marketing, Logistics, ICT not just those that are perceived to be mathematical like finance or design.

Too often maths is discarded too early and its relevance ignored. The introduction of core maths is a superb tool to ensure that development of an appreciation of financial management and problem solving is continued, something that is critical to all areas of business.

The courses will be available to students who achieve a C or above in their GCSE. Core maths is the equivalent size and has the same UCAS points as an AS level and will further pupils’ maths skills while teaching them how to apply existing knowledge to real life issues. They are aimed at those students who would not normally study maths at A level or AS level but need maths skills in further study which could include courses like economics, geography or social sciences.

New maths and English GCSEs

New maths and English GCSEs will also make their debut in classrooms this week.

Prior to government reforms employers and educators reported that school leavers lacked crucial skills, with young adults in England among the worst performers in literacy and numeracy in the OECD’s survey of adult skills.

The new gold standard qualifications, on a par with the best in the world, will ensure pupils get the vital knowledge universities and employers say they need. They represent the final stage in crucial reforms to qualifications which will help meet the government’s commitment to make our young people the most literate and numerate in the world.

The key changes in:

  • Maths: students will have the opportunity to carry out more in depth study of key areas such as ratio, proportion and rates of changes, and will be required to apply knowledge and reasoning to provide clear mathematical arguments. It will focus on ensuring every student masters the fundamental knowledge needed for further education and future careers and, at the higher level, will cover more challenging topics to ensure the most able pupils are challenged and can compete globally
  • English language: there is greater focus on ensuring students can read fluently and effectively. All students will be taught the language and literacy skills which employers demand and are required for further study. As part of the government’s focus on rigour, 20% of the marks will be awarded for accurate spelling, punctuation and grammar for the first time. It will also encourage the study of literature for those who do not take the English literature GCSE, with students reading high-quality texts across a range of genres and periods
  • English literature: students will study a range of intellectually challenging and substantial whole texts including at least 1 Shakespeare play, a 19th century novel, a selection of poetry including representative Romantic poetry and other high-quality fiction and drama. The new GCSE will also ensure that all students are examined on some ‘unseen’ texts, encouraging students to read widely and rewarding those that can demonstrate the breadth of their understanding.

Schools Minister Nick Gibb:

As part of this government’s commitment to social justice I want every child, regardless of background to have access to an excellent education.

Maths and English aren’t optional - they are the building blocks of future study and employment.

These new gold standard GCSEs will ensure young people completing them master the skills needed to compete with the best in the world.

New, more rigorous GCSEs will be introduced in all subjects but English and maths have been prioritised as they are key to learning in other subjects.

Reformed GCSEs in core academic EBacc subjects including history, geography, science subjects and modern foreign languages will be introduced from next year.

To ensure the grading system reflects the new more stretching subjects content the A to G system is being replaced with a 9 to 1 scale from 2017.

Under the new system, a ‘good pass’ - currently a C grade - will become a grade 5 under the new scale. The new ‘good pass’ is comparable to a high C or low B under the current system - making it comparable to the standard aimed for by pupils in top-performing countries such as Finland, Canada, the Netherlands and Switzerland.

Crucially, schools and teachers will no longer be judged on moving pupils over the C/D borderline, and will instead be encouraged to focus on the achievement of every child, including stretching the brightest and supporting those who are struggling. The government will encourage schools to raise the attainment of pupils at every level by replacing 5 A* to C with Progress 8 as the new headline performance measure - giving credit to the progress made by all pupils.

Notes to editors

  1. Examples of core maths exam questions can be provided on request.
  2. Full details of the changes to English and maths GCSEs can be found below:

English Language

  • The new English language GCSE places greater demands on pupils and has more emphasis on those skills demanded by employers.
  • It provides greater focus on ensuring students can read fluently; analyse texts and write clearly and accurately using appropriate Standard English.
  • Students will be expected to use a range of vocabulary and different types of sentence structure with accurate spelling and punctuation, which will contribute 20% of new GCSE marks of the overall qualification (up from 12% in the old GCSE).
  • Students will be required to read a wide range of texts, fluently and with good understanding. They will read and be assessed on high-quality, challenging texts from each of the 19th, 20th and 21st centuries.
  • Spoken language will continue to form part of the new English language GCSE but will be reported separately and will not contribute to the final mark and grade.
  • Other new requirements include testing whether students can write in different ways such as narrating and presenting arguments to different audiences.

English Literature

  • The new English literature GCSE will be broader and more challenging for pupils than those available at the moment.
  • Pupils are required to study a range of high quality, intellectually challenging, and substantial texts including at least 1 Shakespeare play, one nineteenth-century novel, a selection of poetry since 1789 including representative Romantic poetry and fiction or drama from the British Isles from 1914 onwards. The specification for poetry and a novel from the 1800s is new.
  • In addition, pupils will need to respond to unseen texts in the examination, which will require them to have read widely in order to achieve well.
  • 5% of the marks will be allocated to spelling and grammar.


  • The new mathematics GCSE will allow students to demonstrate deeper and broader understanding of the subject
  • Greater focus on ensuring that every student masters the fundamental maths - such as calculation, ratio and proportion
  • Requires students to apply their mathematical knowledge and reasoning to develop clear mathematical arguments and solve more complex and authentic problems
  • Students will need to memorise formulae previously given in exam papers
  • More challenging questions for the most able, to properly test their understanding of the mathematical knowledge needed for higher level study
  • It will offer a stronger basis for the study mathematics for those making the transition to A level mathematics - for example through the study of more advanced algebra and pre-calculus

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