Consultation on the National Curriculum 2011
A very important consultation on the National Curriculum was opened by the Department for Education in 2011. See http://www.education.gov.uk/NCReviewcallforevidence and http://www.education.gov.uk/nationalcurriculum.
The Society's response to this consultation is available as a PDF file.
Introduction of legislation to close the QCDA
On 27 May 2010, Michael Gove (Secretary of State, Department for Education) wrote to QCDA confirming that legislation to abolish the Agency would be introduced in autumn 2010. The Department for Education's announcement can be found by following the link. The Secretary of State's letter is also available (or it can be obtained by download from the announcement).
The Society seeks to influence the curriculum so as to stress the importance of statistics and to endeavour to ensure that it has its proper place within the curriculum. We believe that an appropriate level of statistical literacy is an essential life skill for everyone.
As part of this work, we form part of the Council for the Mathematical Sciences. We are also formally represented on many other key bodies such as the Joint Mathematical Council. We work closely with other learned and professional societies in mathematical and science education. More widely, we are regularly invited to participate in meetings and events initiated and organised by other bodies within the more general education sector. Among these bodies and societies are the DCSF, QCDA (formerly QCA), ACME and the Royal Society.
These meetings often take the form of consultations. Alternatively, they may raise new issues, perhaps with case studies, that can inform the development of the Society's education strategy. They may also offer the opportunity to establish new partnerships that can underpin new projects and activities. Sometimes these meetings are confidential. Where notes or formal minutes are issued which are cleared for publication, these are usually circulated to members of our Education Strategy Group or Professional Affairs Committee and to other key contacts. Please get in touch with us if you think you may be interested in receiving any such material.
Links to information about some of the key areas of our interest are set out below. Please scroll the screen as necessary.
QCA / QCDA consultation on AS/A-level Mathematics subjects 2009-2010 and subsequent developments
During 2009, the QCDA (formerly the QCA) consulted on proposals for changes to AS/A-level mathematics subjects. This was a very important and highly controversial consultation. The Society encouraged all with any interest in these matters to respond.
We developed a position statement setting out the Society's views. This is available by following this link. A transcript of our response to the consultation is available by following this link.
A parallel, and much better structured, consultation on the QCDA proposals was run by DCELLS, the corresponding body in Wales. The Society also responded to this consultation, in broadly similar terms.
A meeting was convened by QCDA on 28 July 2009 to consider the outcomes of the consultations. The Society was represented at this meeting. It was apparent that the QCDA's proposals had found little favour. The QCDA then developed alternative proposals, seeking to take account of views expressed.
These alternative proposals were not placed in the public domain and are therefore not exhibited on this webpage. However, QCDA convened several focus groups in the autumn of 2009 at which they were discussed. The Society was represented at some of these focus groups. The alternative proposals found little support.
The original consultation also covered proposed development of the existing qualification in Use of Mathematics and a proposed new qualification in Use of Statistics, later renamed simply Statistics. These proposals are covered in our position statement and response. The Society was represented at a sequence of meetings which were called to explore these further. Some attention was also given to them in the focus group meetings during autumn 2009.
Following a further meeting on 26 March 2010, QCDA sent new proposals to Ofqual on 1 April to form the basis of a formal consultation. It appeared to the Society, and to many other organisations in the mathematics community, that this was being done too hastily. The meeting on 26 March had not reached a position accepted by all present. Discussions continued on the best way forward.
The General Election in 2010 rapidly brought about major changes in the education landscape. The introduction of legislation to close the QCDA was announced on 27 May (see the Department for Education's announcement). On 16 June 2010, a letter from Stephen Meek of the Department for Education (Director, Young People: Qualifications Strategy and Reform Group) stated that "the current review of A levels and other level 3 qualifications in mathematics subjects will not continue". New qualifications development procedures were to be built up, and the mathematics suite would be reviewed through them.
Early in July 2010, Michael Gove, the Secretary of State for Education, indicated a desire to phase out modular AS/A-levels and return to a system of examinations at the end of two-year courses (this is sometimes known as a "linear" system). It appeared that these would, by design, be more demanding and rigorous, though it was also indicated that Examining Boards would be allowed to continue to offer the existing AS/A2 qualifications. Further information is available on news sites such as BBC News and Telegraph.co.uk (please note that, as these are news sites, the articles may be transferred to other locations or removed altogether at an early stage). The Society quickly began to work with other bodies in the mathematics community to comment on these proposals and possible unintended consequences. Shortly after the initial announcement, at a meeting of ACME (the Advisory Committee on Mathematics Education), senior civil servants from the Department for Education explained that it was the intention that there should be an option of linear syllabuses running alongside modular ones. Shortly afterwards, ACME wrote formally to Michael Gove, clearly and strongly setting out its views on this and related matters. The Society was very much in sympathy with the contents of the ACME letter. ACME received a reply from Nick Gibb, Minister of State for Schools, dated 3 August 2010.
The Quality Assurance Agency for Higher Education (QAA) has an on-going programme of benchmarking academic disciplines. The Society has contributed to this programme for degree courses in the area of Mathematics, Statistics and Operational Research.
See our Benchmarking page.
QAA Framework for Higher Education Qualifications (FHEQ)
The Quality Assurance Agency for Higher Education (QAA) maintains this Framework. The Society has contributed to consultation on it.
See our FHEQ page.
[Note: a link to the Dublin Descriptors is available on the FHEQ page. These descriptors are an important statement about the general nature of degree programmes.]
The Bologna Process
The Bologna Process is an attempt to create a European Higher Education Area by mutual agreement by the year 2010. Over 40 European countries, including the UK, are now signatories. The Society has been working with other mathematical sciences bodies, particularly through the Council for the Mathematical Sciences, to look into the implications for higher education programmes in mathematics, statistics and related disciplines in the UK.
Post-14 Mathematics Inquiry, February 2004
The Society's response: Teaching statistics across the 14-19 curriculum, April 2005
The report of Professor Adrian Smith's inquiry into post-14 Mathematics, Making Maths Count, often referred to as the Smith Report, was published in February 2004. It drew attention to many serious problems in school mathematics education in the UK. The Society strongly agreed with most of the points made by it, but was very concerned about a few. It undertook substantial work of its own to investigate the situation and lay down its own position.
See our Post-14 Mathematics Inquiry page.
New specifications for GCSE Mathematics are being introduced for first teaching in 2010. The Society is deeply interested, both because GCSE Mathematics is a fundamentally important qualification in its own right and because of the the position of statistics within it.
See our GCSE Mathematics - new specifications from 2010 page.
Diploma in Science
See http://www.sciencediploma.co.uk. Development of this new qualification aimed at 14-19 year olds had been proceeding, not without some controversy, towards introduction at Advanced level in (September) 2012 following the Foundation and Higher levels in 2011. The Society had had some engagement with the development teams, seeking to emphasise the central position of statistics throughout the entire field of scientific enquiry.
In April 2010 the Society responded formally to a QCDA consultation on the "line of learning" for the Advanced Diploma. Please follow the link for a transcript of the Society's response (PDF file, about 87 KB). In May 2010 the Society responded formally to a corresponding Ofqual consultation on draft criteria for the Advanced Diploma. Please follow the link for a transcript of the Society's response (PDF file, about 73 KB). Both responses again emphasised the central position of statistics in science, and argued that study of statistics needed to be more explicit and not restricted to a shallow level.
On 7 June 2010, the Department for Education announced that "development of the new Diplomas in science, humanities and languages, due to be introduced from September 2011, will cease immediately". Please follow the link for the Department for Education announcement (which also covers other important matters not connected with the Diploma).
Science Teaching in Schools, November 2006
In 2006, the Select Committe on Science and Technology began a short inquiry to examine science teaching in schools. The investigation followed on from previous Select Committee inquiries. In particular, the Science and Society report of February 2000, and the report Science in Schools of March 2001.
The Society presented evidence to this inquiry. The evidence highlighted the importance of statistics in the curriculum, as a vital support for scientific and other disciplines and as a key subject in its own right. The evidence further highlighted the need for good professional development of teachers, both initial and continuing.
Evidence submitted (PDF40 KB)
QCA futures: A Strategic Look at the Curriculum, February 2006
Early in 2006, the Qualifications and Curriculum Authority (QCA) invited the Society to contribute to its "QCA Futures" programme of strategic debate and discussion on what the curriculum might look like several years into the future.
The Society eagerly took up this invitation, by preparing a paper exploring future roles for statistical learning within the National Curriculum. The paper is a major statement of the Society's beliefs about the central role of statistics in the curriculum. It gives a strategic vision of the importance of statistical understanding for all modern citizens. It emphasises that a basic understanding of statistical ideas is fundamental to understanding modern society.
The link below goes to the Society's paper.
The Society's contribution to QCA Futures (PDF 25 KB)
Ofqual consultation: Regulating for confidence in standards
Ofqual, the Office of Qualifications and Examinations Regulation, opened a consultation in December 2009 on how it should meet its objectives and exercise its duties and powers. The consultation document is available on the Ofqual website (if the detailed link no longer works, go to the Ofqual home page and navigate from there).
A detailed and robust reply was developed by ACME (the Advisory Committee on Mathematics Education) in association with the JMC (Joint Mathematical Council). The Society, through its membership of the JMC and its representation on the JMC Executive Committee, was involved in the JMC's work and gave its very strong support to the response. Especially important points were the need for transparency and flexiility in the regulations. This response is available on the ACME website.
In considering its own response, the Society therefore thought it best to associate itself strongly with the ACME-JMC response rather than to risk dilution of the arguments by attempting to re-state them in other terms. A letter was sent to Ofqual accordingly.
ACME position paper, July 2010: Post-16 in 2016
ACME, the Advisory Committee on Mathematics Education, issued a discussion paper "Towards Level 3 Mathematics in 2016" in autumn 2009 to provoke discussion about level 3 mathematics, looking strategically at the future of post-16 mathematics. The Society saw this as a welcome step towards the opening of a constructive and timely debate. After consideration by the Society's Education Strategy Group, a letter was sent by the President, Professor David Hand, to ACME setting out the Society's initial views and making it clear that the Society stood ready to work with ACME to take these matters forward.
In July 2010, after considerable further discussion, ACME issued the definitive version of their position paper, "Post-16 in 2016". This is likely to prove a very important paper and have a high level of influence in future developments.
International Review of Mathematics (IRM), March 2004
An international review of UK research in mathematics (including statistics) was undertaken in autumn 2003 on behalf of the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) and the Council for the Mathematical Sciences (CMS). The review was conducted by a panel of experts of high international standing. It centred on the standing, quality and potential of mathematics research in the UK. This review was part of a series undertaken by EPSRC in collaboration with the relevant subject societies.
The final report was published in March 2004. The Society welcomed it, agreeing with its high praise for UK research in statistics, but also sharing its concerns about the renewal of the academic base. Follow-up meetings have been held between CMS representatives and the Chief Executive and other officers of EPSRC.
The next International Review of Mathematics is scheduled for 2011 (somewhat later than had originally been intended) and will be managed by EPSRC's Evaluation Team.
IRM report (PDF 256 KB)
The Society's press statement welcoming the report (PDF 90 KB)
Professor Bernard Silverman's summary of work leading up to the Review (PDF 47 KB)
Short report of EPSRC meeting after the Review (PDF 58 KB)
Statistics community proposal for action following the review (PDF 121 KB)