|Taken from MEI's Annual Review 2016 - 17|
The FMSP makes A level maths and further maths accessible to students who otherwise would not have the opportunity to take it. Imagine a society in which our most talented mathematicians stop studying maths aged 16 because they live in the wrong area or go to the wrong school. It's clear to anyone with even a shred of social conscience that the work of the FMSP is incredibly important.
In response to the Smith review, the Department for Education announced a new Level 3 Maths Support Programme (L3MSP), with £16 million of funding from April 2018. Although we were led to believe that this was exciting 'new money', my understanding is that it will replace the previous level three support. Hence the Core Maths Support Programme and the much loved Underground Mathematics have already gone, and the FMSP (in its current form) will go too.
In MEI's recent newsletter it said that the FMSP will continue to provide A level maths and further maths support for schools and colleges until the new L3MSP is in place.
So the FMSP, which has been running since 2005, will be superseded by the L3MSP next April.
The new L3MSP will support Core Maths and A level mathematics and further mathematics, but will focus on the DfE's twelve 'Opportunity Areas' (these were selected from areas identified by the Social Mobility Commission as having particularly poor social mobility). So I think this means that those of us who work in schools outside of those Opportunity Areas will see our level three support withdrawn, or at least reduced.
This suggests that most of us will no longer have access to the FMSP's affordable high quality training courses on how to deliver A level topics. This comes at a time when we are teaching a brand new A level curriculum (which, particularly for the further maths specification, requires a great deal of subject knowledge development) and we have dwindling numbers of specialist maths teachers. This also comes at a time when A level uptake may have dropped significantly due to the impact of the new GCSE. We won't know official numbers for a while, but at my school we were surprised that our A level maths uptake fell by 32% this year - I certainly hope that this is not representative of the national picture. Either way, given the current situation, the timing of these changes couldn't be worse.
What can we do?
We're too late to save Underground Maths and the Core Maths Support Programme, but perhaps we're not too late to save the FMSP. We need to make our voices heard! We need to make sure that the Department for Education knows where we stand on this.
If level three support will end in all but the Opportunity Areas from April 2018 then the Department for Education need to be transparent in their communication about this. Maths teachers need to know that this is happening.
I'm hoping that we can do something about this. If I have to organise an actual protest outside the DfE then I will! Just watch me.
I'm just a teacher - I blog independently without income or affiliation - but I think this is worth fighting for.