Paul Glaister Interview


‘Q. What is your background and how did you get involved in Core Maths?

My background is in mathematics and mathematics education. Having trained and qualified as a secondary teacher (of mathematics), I have spent most of the last 36 years of my working life in the Mathematics Department at the University of Reading, engaging in research in mathematics, and mathematics education, and, among other things, teaching countless numbers of undergraduate and postgraduate mathematics students on a wide range of courses. In 2013 I became involved in qualification reform as part of the A Level Content Advisory Board (ALCAB), a Department of Education (DfE) initiative instigated by Michael Gove, the then Secretary of State at the DfE. The remit of ALCAB was ‘to provide advice to Government and to the Office of Qualifications and Examinations Regulation (Ofqual) on the content of A-levels in the subjects of particular importance for preparation for the leading universities.’. My work on this continues as part of the A Level Mathematics Advisory Board (ALMAB), and as an External Expert for Ofqual. In January 2014, shortly after I was appointed as a member of ALCAB, I was invited to become involved with, and support the work of the Core Maths Support Programme, by an outstanding leader and practitioner  in mathematics education, Professor David Burghes. Not only was I humbled by this request, but it has been an absolute honour and privilege to be part of this Programme. I have spent a very rewarding (nearly) three years working with such enthusiastic, committed, and really amazing colleagues and partners that comprise the CMSP, including the consummate leader of the Programme, Mick Blaylock, the inspirational David Burghes himself, and many others, particularly the outstanding Core Maths Leads (CMLs) without whom we would not be in the position we are today.

At the launch of Core Maths in June 2014 I spoke of the needs of Higher Education (HE) for this new qualification, and I coined a quote, which has followed me and the Core Maths programme around ever since:

“Core Maths is the most significant development in post-16 mathematics education in a generation”.

At the time it was obvious to me that, even if this wasn’t apparent to the audience at the time, it would, in time, be seen as such. Since then I have not experienced anything that would alter my view.


Q. What is your view of Core Maths, and what is its value to Higher Education?

Ever since I became involved with Core Maths it is has been clear that this really is the solution to many of the issues identified across a range of reports that have sought to address the current and future needs of HE, and the UK more generally. As part of the drive to increase participation and raise standards, Core Maths will bring huge benefit to many young people, including those embarking on courses in HE for which A-level mathematics is not required but where mathematical knowledge and its application are nonetheless important. Core Maths focusses on mathematics and statistics to solve meaningful and relevant problems, which is precisely the preparation needed for many university courses such as geography, business, and social sciences such as psychology and sociology, and many more besides. By deepening competence and building skills in mathematical thinking, reasoning and communication, and developing confidence in representing and analysing authentic situations, Core Maths will be the key to success for many young people entering HE.

Throughout my time with the Core Maths Support Programme I have been acting as an ambassador for the programme, and Core Maths more generally, engaging with a wide range stakeholders, including universities. In September 2015 Nick Gibb, Minister of State for School Standards (DfE) and Jo Johnson, Minister of State for Universities and Science (BIS) wrote to all university vice-chancellors to provide information on the new Core Maths qualifications. The Ministerial letter was accompanied by my briefing paper, which provided more details on Core Maths and its relevance to HE. As part of this communication to vice-chancellors, attention was drawn to my engagement with universities, and that I would very much welcome the opportunity to give institution-wide briefings on Core Maths to senior staff and staff responsible for admissions in universities.  All universities were encouraged to take up this opportunity to find out more about Core Maths, its relevance to HE, and to discuss any aspects of Core Maths. Since then I have been touring the country, giving briefings on Core Maths, and Post 16 mathematics reforms more generally, to university senior leaders and admissions staff. Having travelled the length and breadth of the country, I have been overwhelmed by the support for Core Maths, with colleagues from very wide-ranging disciplines welcoming and supportive of Core Maths. While this was no more than I expected, it has been very reassuring to hear the overwhelmingly positive feedback wherever I have been. No one has ever given an indifferent or negative response to Core Maths in any of my many briefings or other engagements with stakeholders. Testament to this are the growing number of positive endorsements for Core Maths that many universities have been making, welcoming the introduction of Core Math qualifications and the opportunity that these provide for students to develop their mathematical and statistical problem-solving, evaluation and data-analysis skills beyond GCSE, with benefits to further study in HE.

As I have engaged with an ever-increasing number of stakeholders over the last two years or so, I have never been more convinced of the truth of my statement above made back in June 2014 when Core Maths was born. Given how far we have come since then this almost seems like a generation ago!’

Professor Paul Glaister