MRS THATCHER CALLS FOR MORE MATHEMATICS GRADUATES TO ENTER TEACHING
A call for more mathematics graduates to go into teaching was made by the Education Secretary, Mrs Margaret Thatcher, when she addressed the centenary conference of the Mathematical Association in London today (14 April). Mrs Thatcher said:
“As the scope of mathematics has widened so has the demand for the services of mathematicians. This must be a source of gratification to mathematicians but it carries with it a drawback which causes me great concern, as it does I am sure to you. With the great and growing demand for mathematicians in commerce, industry and research the schools do not find it easy to recruit enough well-qualified mathematics teachers. Many people have pointed out how serious the situation is. There are at the moment about 5,700 graduate teachers for whom mathematics is the first or only subject of their degree. If one counts those who took, for example, physics with mathematics the total is about 8,000. It sounds, and is, a large number, but a recent survey suggested that the schools could make good use of another 2,000 mathematics graduates, and as the secondary school population grows the demand will no doubt increase. The worrying fact is that the total has, at least up to 1969, been more or less stationary.
“There are some gleams of hope. One contributory reason why the total number of mathematics graduates teachers has not increased has been that the schools were depending heavily on older mathematicians, and that losses by retirement from these ranks were for a time disproportionately large. There are still many of the older generation of mathematicians doing valuable work in the schools but the age-grouping suggests that losses from this source will be less in the next few years than recently. A second gleam of hope is that the number of mathematics graduates taking a one-year course in education in 1968, 1969 and 1970 was well above the level for 1967 and earlier years. This suggests that later returns of mathematics graduates in the schools may show a small upturn. [end p1]
“One other heartening feature of the situation is that the number of sixth form pupils taking mathematics continues to increase. In 1965 there were 26,000 boys and 6,000 girls in the first year sixth taking A-level courses which included mathematics. In 1970 there were 32,000 and 10,000, and this represents not only a numerical increase but also an increased percentage of the total. This is an important fact to note; as far as sixth form studies are concerned the “swing from science” which was apparent a few years ago looks as if it may have been halted.
“I shall continue to do anything that lies in my power to encourage more mathematics graduates to go into teaching and I hope that the present Burnham negotiations may have some bearing on what happens in the future. As many of you will know the Management Panel have proposed a new structure for teachers' pay which will leave authorities freer to give high posts and high salaries to good class teachers without any obligation to link the higher posts with the shouldering of administrative responsibilities.”