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Smith Review published 21 July 2017

Friday, 21 Jul 2017 (revised date: Friday, 21 Jul 2017)
Jeffrey Jones

In March 2016, Professor Sir Adrian Smith was asked to undertake, on behalf of HMT and DfE, a review of 16-18 mathematics education. Prompted by the increasing importance of mathematical and quantitative skills to the future UK workforce and the relatively low level of student participation in continuing mathematics education post-16 in England, the report identifies a strong case for raising participation in post-16 mathematics and improving skills.

The report is structured under four broad headings:

  • the appropriate range of 16-18 mathematics pathways needed;
  • the factors that encourage or discourage individual students to participate;
  • levels of attainment and progression;
  • the capacity to deliver, both in terms of provision of courses and teaching capability.

Sir Adrian is clear about the fundamental importance of basic mathematical and quantitative skills, not just to the country but also to the individual, and the report presents strong evidence for their value to all students, whichever route they take. The report recognises that there are a number of systemic challenges that currently hold back participation in mathematics post-16, and it sets out recommendations to address them. The recommendations cover the following broad themes:

  • Work to improve participation in level 3 mathematics qualifications, including new core maths qualifications, and develop the capability and capacity of the workforce.
  • Designing technical routes that have mathematical and quantitative skills at their core.
  • Improving outcomes for students yet to achieve a standard pass (grade 4) or above in GCSE mathematics.

The review also comments on the wider issues that influence attitudes towards mathematics in society and students’ perceptions of it. These issues go far beyond the 16-18 period of education that is the review’s main focus.


Alongside the launch of the review, the DfE will be publishing its letter responding to Sir Adrian. This will welcome the review and recommendations, recognising that the generational issues that Sir Adrian outlines will require further detailed engagement and action between government, industry and schools and colleges. The response will also highlight a number of recommendations against which we have been able to take immediate action.

Addressing the issues raised by the report and its recommendations is a priority for the government and publication is the beginning of a process of considering how DfE can support greater numbers of pupils to participate and succeed in post-16 mathematics.

 Department for Education


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