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King's plans specialist maths school for sixth-formers

Posted on 14/12/2012
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King’s College London is planning a specialist school for talented young mathematicians as part of the Government’s plans to improve mathematics education in the state sector and increase the number of mathematically talented young people with the right levels of attainment to study STEM subjects at top-rated universities. The College has received a development grant from the Department for Education and the College-sponsored school is expected to open in September 2014.
 
The school will be one of a number of university-sponsored sixth form-only Mathematics schools, funded by the Government. It will aim to cater for students who have both exceptional ability in Mathematics and an intense interest in the subject, and to allow them to study with a critical mass of students with a similar passion for Mathematics.
 
The Maths specialist school initiative involves both the College’s Department of Mathematics and its Department of Education & Professional Studies and is being led by Professor Alison Wolf, Sir Roy Griffiths Professor of Public Sector Management at King’s and author of the Wolf Review of Vocational Education.
 
Professor Rick Trainor, Principal of King’s, said: 'On the back of our existing reputation for research and teaching excellence in the field of Mathematics, we are committed to extending our existing outreach activities with the aim of improving standards of Maths education. Our new Maths specialist school will provide vital support for sixth-formers in London to enable them to achieve their aspirations of studying STEM subjects, such as Mathematics, Physics, Engineering and Computer Science, at leading universities. We believe that we can make an important contribution to improving the levels of attainment of young people, who will go on to become the mathematicians, scientists and engineers of the future.'
 
Education Secretary Michael Gove said: 'I am delighted that King’s College London is going to open a specialist maths Free School. If we are to find a future Fields Medallist in our schools, we have to raise standards in maths teaching and create an environment that allows the most gifted to flourish.
 
'This is an excellent example of a world-class higher education institution playing an active role in preparing gifted young people for the rigours of university study. I am sure the King’s College London Free School will be a resounding success and an inspiration to others.'
 
The Department of Education & Professional Studies at King’s is recognised as a national leader in Mathematics education and its PGCE programme in Mathematics is highly regarded. The Department of Mathematics has a strong research profile in both pure and applied mathematics, as illustrated by its ratings in the 2008 Research Assessment Exercise.
 
Research conducted by the Department of Education & Professional Studies has highlighted for some time the poor standards in Mathematics. Professor Jeremy Hodgen’s research reveals that rising scores in secondary Maths examinations in England over the past 30 years do not appear to stem from real increases in mathematical understanding. An analysis of 7,000 secondary pupils' performance in algebra, number and ratio tests conducted in 2011 suggests that there has been little overall change in Maths attainment since the 1970s.
 
King’s has also received an outreach grant from the Department for Education to support work with mathematically talented 14-16 year olds in schools without high levels of specialist Mathematics teaching. This builds on the College’s highly successful Maths widening participation programme – known as the ‘King’s Factor’ - which is being undertaken in collaboration with outstanding London schools from the independent and state sectors.
 
King’s will be offering a series of enrichment sessions which will help to ensure that a large group of students can seek entry to the new school, confident that they can start the study programme with the relevant level of skills. Students will tackle non-routine and challenging problems with an emphasis on mathematical rigour and on oral discussion, argument and collaboration. The aim is to provide all the students who attend with an experience of Mathematics which encourages them to continue beyond GCSE and helps them to progress successfully to A-level work. The outreach programme also provides continuing professional development for teachers.
 
King’s has long-established relationships with schools in London and a record of successful widening participation and outreach activities across many subject areas. The Widening Participation Department has recently launched an innovative compact scheme called K+.
 
K+ offers a two-year structured programme of events and activities to support the academic development and university applications of under-represented groups across London. The programme is aimed at young people in Years 12 and 13 and incorporates e-mentoring from a current King’s student and a range of workshops, taster lectures and cultural events, all designed to raise the aspirations of local young people and provide targeted support where it is needed most. The 2012 cohort is made up of 510 students. King's also works in partnership with the Harris academies and IntoUniversity among others.
 
The new school is likely to be based in the vicinity of King’s Waterloo campus, which is very easily accessible to a large part of south, south-east and south-west London, including areas of considerable social deprivation. Waterloo is a transport hub easily reached from a very large part of the greater London area. The school will therefore be able to draw on a wide catchment area in which there are large numbers of prospective high-attaining students.
 
Approaches are welcomed from schools in the London area which would be interested in sending mathematically talented 14-16 year olds to the King’s Maths enrichment sessions as these expand during 2013 and beyond. Expressions of interest and requests for information should be sent to mathsschoolenquiries@kcl.ac.uk.
 
Notes to editors

Professor Alison Wolf is available for interview. For further media information please contact Anna Mitchell, PR Manager (Arts and Sciences), on anna.i.mitchell@kcl.ac.uk or 0207 848 3092.

For further information about King's visit our 'King's in Brief' page.

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