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Thursday 14 March 2019: Maths anxiety, Higher Education Principles and period poverty

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Today’s Education in the Media blog looks at media stories on maths anxiety, the publication of our new Higher Education Principles, and the new provision announced in the Spring Statement to tackle period poverty in schools.

Maths Anxiety

Today, Thursday 14 March, the Faculty of Education and the Centre for Neuroscience in Education at Cambridge have published research which says that pupils as young as six are suffering from anxiety triggered by maths. This was covered by the Independent, the Times, the Guardian, the Telegraph and the Mail.

We are clear that having a confident understanding of maths at a young age is important to helping young people develop the knowledge and skills they need, and numeracy tests at Key Stage 2 are there to make sure children are being taught what they need to be in maths to go on and succeed at secondary school.

However, the Education Secretary has been clear that these tests should not create anxiety for pupils.

A Department for Education spokesperson said:

A confident grasp of mathematics at a young age provides the building blocks of numbers and problem solving that can help young people develop the knowledge and skills they need to secure a good job and succeed in whatever path they choose later in life. Maths is also increasingly important as the world becomes more automated – as machines speak the language of maths.

We have created Maths Hubs across the country to support schools to raise the standard of mathematics education and backed this with £41m funding to scale up mastery mathematics teaching approaches across primary schools. We’re seeing this approach work with an increase in the numbers of pupils meeting the expected standard of numeracy at Key Stage 2 – although the Education Secretary has been clear that these tests should not be a point anxiety for pupils, as their core purpose is to help ensure primary schools are teaching our children the key skills and knowledge in maths that they will need to go on to succeed at secondary school.

Higher Education Principles

Today, we are publishing our new Higher Education Principles, outlining our expectation of what all universities should offer to care leavers. The new principles aim to raise the bar of support offered to care leavers across higher education. This was covered in the Telegraph .

The principles set out in the document aim to help care leavers by setting out expectations for the level of support we want them to receive with accommodation, finances, career advice and more.

We are also asking the most selective and well-resourced universities to go the furthest for care leavers, for example by offering free accommodation and bursaries.

Universities Minister Chris Skidmore said:

Everyone, including young people leaving care, should have the opportunity and the support to thrive in university and go on to succeed. Care leavers taking up a place at university face different pressures to their peers, but we are determined to stop them from dropping out due to challenges beyond their control.

The access and participation work done by universities must ensure all parts of society have fair access, especially for care leavers. But a place at university is only the start and universities must also focus on supporting young people to make the most out of their course and ultimately secure employment in the future.

Children and Families Minister Nadhim Zahawi said:

Far too many of young people leaving care are missing out on opportunities that their peers take for granted. Many universities are already improving their offers to care leavers, through our Care Leaver Covenant and beyond, but I want this to become the norm – not the exception.

These principles are important in creating a culture shift for all universities. They set out clearly what we expect from them in helping young people leaving care to start higher education, and call on them to extend the kinds of practical and personal support that will make a challenging transition less overwhelming.

Period Poverty

Yesterday, Wednesday 13 March, the Chancellor of the Exchequer delivered his Spring Statement, which included the announcement of new funding for free sanitary products in secondary schools to tackle period poverty. This was reported in the Metro, the Telegraph and the Mail.

The department’s 2018 omnibus surveys found that 6% of female school pupils and 14% of female college students have been unable to access sanitary products in the previous year due to affordability.

This support will allow girls in secondary schools to access sanitary products easily and free of charge so that they can focus on their studies and their own wellbeing.

Education Secretary Damian Hinds said:

I am delighted that the Chancellor has now confirmed that he intends to fund access to free sanitary products for girls in secondary schools and colleges, continuing the good work undertaken by projects funded through the Tampon Tax Fund. In a new survey published today many girls told us their school or college already provides products to those who need them and this financial support will ensure that this can continue.

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