New study reflects the need for extra funding in Maths
John Underhill, operations director at Tutor Hunt, reveals the findings of the company`s recent research, which surveyed 3,421 tutors across the UK and found that 32 per cent of respondents listed maths as the most popular subject they tutor.
There are a number of factors that I believe have led to our most recent findings, which show that maths is the most popular subject that students seek tutoring for. We know that schools are under increasing pressures to deliver more with less, with shrinking budgets and tougher GCSE courses to prepare students for, maths in particular has been neglected. One of our previous surveys found that within the top five reasons for investing in private tuition, students sited improving exam results (44 per cent) and poor quality of teaching at school (9 per cent).
Tutors agree too, with an overwhelming 77 per cent saying they felt the pressure on students to perform has increased over the last year to 18 months and a further 75 per cent felt teachers are unable to give the support students need in the classroom.
According to research from the National Numeracy Trust, the percentage of working age adults in England with numeracy skill levels equivalent to GCSE C grade or above reduced by 4 per cent between 2003 and 2011. Maths skills help our workforce remain competitive with our international peers and are also linked to higher employment rates and salaries.
Furthermore, for students wanting to study towards A levels and attend university, it is imperative to achieve at least a C (approximately grade 4 or 5 under the new structure) in maths, English, and for some courses, science too. Therefore, in order to give students the best chance in life we need to ensure every child has access to engaging maths lessons tailored to their educational needs.
So what can be done?
We have so many wonderful and dedicated educators in the sector, so the question isn`t about finding quality teachers, but rather about what can be done to support them in delivering engaging maths lessons at school, and recognising the opportunities to provide extra help to ease pressures for students and teachers alike.
While external resource in the form of tutors and online learning tools provide additional support to students, reassuring parents that they are able to reach their full potential, ultimately, we need increased funding to support our efforts. With shrinking budgets causing concern among schools, 72 per cent of headteachers believe that in two years` time, school budgets will become unsustainable (National Association of Head Teachers).
Mark Hobson, a tutor from Doncaster said: `Teachers are under significant pressure to deliver results and this sometimes filters down to their students. Recent changes to the GCSE and A-level mathematics syllabi and assessment methodology have made the subject even more demanding, making the role of the private tutor essential in helping to complement and support this process. If the required grade is then achieved, then both student and teacher have been supported appropriately.`
Recently, Phillip Hammond offered new investment in an effort to boost maths teaching standards in schools, including a 40 million package to train more maths teachers and a 600 boost to schools and colleges for every extra sixth-former who takes A-level or core maths. This is welcome news, but if exams continue to be redesigned and become tougher, pressures on students (and by default, teachers too) will also increase.
Mark continued: `The Chancellor`s announcement is welcome. Funding for the Level 3 Maths Support Programme will help as both students and teachers can use this resource. However, the incentive of 600 per-student at A-Level might be better spent making maths a subject more students enjoy and are successful with at GCSE, which in turn would make A-Level maths a more attractive proposition. Then there would be less need for additional support.`
With uncertainty surrounding the impacts of Brexit, 2018 and following years are hard to predict. However, throughout it all, we must be able to provide students with the appropriate level of support in order to give them the opportunity to realise and fulfil their potential whether that`s inside the classroom, through independent learning or one-to-one tutoring sessions.
What is interesting to note is that all STEM subjects (maths, chemistry, biology, physics, etc.) appeared high on the survey as being popular subjects that tutors support students with. Traditionally these are difficult subjects to engage children with but being able to give tailored lessons and a personalised learning pathway to students, tutors have found their pupils also have a boost in confidence, which transcends into their classroom learning too.
Tutoring can also offer an important source of extra support when mounting pressures on schools leave them struggling to offer additional guidance. With more budget cuts expected, schools will continue to face recruitment and retention issues as they struggle to offer competitive salaries and work-life balance. For teachers, tutoring offers another income stream. In fact, on average, a private tutor earns almost 4 more per hour ( 26.59) than a full-time secondary school teacher ( 22.73). However, they are able to take control of their workload too, by choosing when and where to work according to demands and their own personal commitments.
Although steps have been made to increase funding to maths teaching, in order to fully support our students, there needs to be a sustained approach, addressing wider issues such as staff retention and exam pressures. Tutoring can offer a valuable extra resource to schools struggling to recruit maths teachers, give existing teachers the chance to take control of their source of income, and support students in preparation for their exams.