Increase in the number of girls taking Further Mathematics in Wales

Further Mathematics A-level results are again a cause for celebration in Wales and many Welsh students will use their Further Mathematics A-level to enable them to study for a STEM degree.

This year saw an impressive 20% increase in the number of Welsh girls taking a full A-level in Further Mathematics in comparison with 2015. The proportion of girls with Further Mathematics qualifications historically remains low across the UK as illustrated in the graph below. This year’s increase in Wales makes an impressive 34% of the whole cohort in comparison with 27.5% in the UK. The number of girls taking a full A-level Further Mathematics in Wales has increased by 86% since 2009. Professor Julie Williams CBE, Chief Scientific Advisor for Wales, commented “I support more girls taking A-level Further Mathematics. There are many opportunities for interesting and rewarding careers using mathematics, in fact there is a shortage of people with this knowledge and skill. Maths is an excellent career choice.”

Graph 1.  Proportion of A-level Further Mathematics female students in Wales and the UK since 2009

(http://www.jcq.org.uk/examination-results/a-levels)

Further Maths

Jaina Patel from Ysgol Gyfun Aberaeron said: “I am so happy I got an A* in Further Mathematics. Thank you so so much for all the help over the past two years, I'm so grateful for it!”. The subject was not available in Jaina’s school and she had to study it off the timetable as a combination of online lessons and Saturday face-to-face support arranged through the Further Mathematics Support Programme (FMSP) Wales. The FMSP Wales will do all it can to bring about further increases in girl’s participation in Further Mathematics.

Compared with 2010:

•  A level Further Mathematics numbers are up from 240 to 502, an increase of 209%.
•  AS Further Mathematics numbers are up from 275 to 458, an increase of 167%.
•  Girls’ participation in A-level Further Mathematics is up from 73 to 171, an increase of 234%. Boys’ participation is up from 178 to 372, an increase of 209%.
•  Girls’ participation in AS Further Mathematics is up from 77 to 131, an increase of 170%. Boys’ participation is up from 115 to 327, an increase of 284%.

The attainment remains at a very high level in Wales with 40% achieving A* in Further Mathematics A-level and 61.2% in total achieving A*-A. This represents a slight drop from 45.5% and 63.8% achieved last year but remains higher than the overall UK results in the subject.

Further Mathematics qualifications allow students to enrich their mathematics experience and build a more solid foundation for pursuing careers in science, technology, economics, actuarial science and finance. The qualification is highly regarded by the Russell Group of Universities; this was highlighted in their guide to post-16 subject choices.

Until now the FMSP Wales, based in Swansea University and funded by the Welsh Government, has been operating in 8 counties in Wales. The Programme has had three strands, Tuition and Student Support, Teacher Professional Development and Enrichment underpinned by engagement with mathematics research. Dr Martin Crossley, the Deputy Head of the Mathematics Department in Swansea University said: “We see how great an impact the programme has had on schools, teachers and students, inspiring much greater interest in the subject, by showing connections between topics on the FM curriculum and the ideas behind current research in Mathematics. Over recent years the proportion of students with Further Mathematics AS/A level qualifications admitted to study Mathematics degree programmes in Swansea has increased significantly and we are very pleased to see this growth.”  Several other STEM departments in Wales also report that the proportion of Further Mathematics students increased. However, there is still a gap between the proportion of Welsh students admitted with Further Mathematics qualifications and the proportion of their English counterparts, and there is still more work to be done.

In August 2016 the Welsh Government granted further funding to expand the programme to all counties in Wales. Significant investment of £883,000 has been made available for the period Aug 2016 – March 2018. The expansion will build on the success of the programme which supports schools and colleges to increase teacher expertise and students’ participation in AS/A-level Mathematics. Professor Hilary Lappin-Scott, Senior Pro-Vice Chancellor of Swansea University, commented: “Swansea University has supported the FMSP Wales since its inception as a pilot project in South West Wales. I am very pleased with how impressively the programme has developed, especially with the newly added Women in Mathematics events and overall support to encourage girls’ participation in Further Mathematics to redress a historic imbalance. Mathematics here in Swansea is part of the College of Science, which has already earned an Athena Swan Bronze Award for its work on diversity and among other things on encouraging girls to pursue scientific studies and careers. We are looking forward to working with other universities in Wales on expanding the programme to new areas.”

The FMSP Wales team look forward to establishing the programme in Mid, North and South Wales from September 2016. All state-funded secondary schools and colleges in Wales are invited to register with the Programme http://www.furthermaths.org.uk/?section=teachers&page=register and express their interest in tuition assistance by contacting the Programme Leader Sofya Lyakhova on 01792 602793.