Posted by: Administrator | 14/10/2009

Chris Budd: Election Statement

I am pleased to have the opportunity to describe some of my work and beliefs as the current LMS Education Secretary, since taking over from Brian Stewart in 2006, and to give some idea of my visions for the future role of the LMS in education in these very challenging and fast moving times. (Note that a description of some of the work of the Education Committee is given in my article for the July LMS Newsletter).

I am passionately committed to promoting both mathematics education and also the broader appreciation and popularisation of mathematics at all levels, from school to HE and beyond. In recent years the Education Ctee has addressed all of these areas. As an active research mathematician, I also believe strongly that good mathematics research and good mathematics teaching are mutually supporting and intimately connected, and that both are vital for the health of UK mathematics. This certainly means that we must have a strong and vibrant dialogue between schools and HE and I have done my best to promote this, with a much broader focus on education than just HE matters. Indeed in recent years the Education Ctee has addressed such issues as the changes to GCSE, Diplomas, post 16 and A-level teaching, enrichment and engagement activities with schools, benchmarking of undergraduate degrees, training of maths lecturers, the issues related to the Bologna agreement and the popularisation of mathematics.

I terms of what I believe and hope to achieve. Firstly, I believe that we should have a schools and HE programme of teaching maths which really engages, stimulates and challenges our students so that we can produce the next generation of both mathematicians and also mathematically rich disciplines. This certainly means that we must have challenging mathematics A levels (Maths and Further Maths) which engage a good number of students and adequately prepares them for the rigours of doing a mathematically demanding degree. I also believe that GCSE should stretch and challenge the best students whilst still engaging all students. The latter has been the motivation behind the recent support of the LMS Education Ctee for the twin GCSE. I will continue to champion high and improving standards at all school levels.

I am also very concerned that far too many students drop maths post 16. This means that almost uniquely in the industrialised nations we do not teach maths to all students up to the age of 18. I do not believe that this is healthy for the future of the nation and I support the Pathways approach, outlined in the 2004 Smith Report (to which the LMS Education Ctee contributed) in which different mathematical courses are designed to meet different needs of the students. I hope that we can seek a world in which all school leavers are mathematically literate and I will endeavour to make this possible.

I recognise that in a world of limited resource (both in money and in trained teachers) that there are tensions (and potential dangers) between supporting a demanding A level for the good mathematicians and also ensuring that more students study maths post 16. To address these tensions I strongly support (both morally and on the ground) initiatives to both encourage and guide the students and teachers on these courses so that we can maximum use of available resource and can lobby for more resource. For example I am a strong supporter of the Further Maths Network and also the development of on-line and electronic resources for schools. I also believe that the LMS members should be engaged in writing excellent text books for this age group. The Education Committee has been actively involved in a number of initiatives to directly link HE Mathematicians with schools (such as More Maths Grads, Maths Careers, HE-STEM) and I firmly believe that the LMS and its members should play and active role in developing more such initiatives in the future. The Education Ctee is also heavily involved in a close dialogue on maths teaching with QCA, ACME, JMC, HODOMS and various learned societies, and I firmly believe that this should continue.

I also support vigorous efforts to support, recruit, retain, train, develop and enthuse excellent maths teachers. We can only have good maths teaching if we have good maths teachers. The LMS Education Ctee has worked closely with the NCETM and strongly supports initiatives to develop CPD for maths teachers linked with HE. I also believe strongly that we should encourage as many good students as possible to go into maths teaching and support initiatives such as the UAS which gives such students the opportunity to act as ambassadors between HE and schools.

The Education Ctee has always taken the role of supporting the teaching of maths at HE extremely seriously, recognising that there are many aspects of teaching maths at HE which make it quite different from other subjects. The Ctee played a major role in formulating the benchmark statement for HE maths teaching, and recently is in the process of formulating a Teaching Statement to give support for any LMS member in HE that has to make the case of teaching maths in a special way, to higher management. I am also very concerned that the current ‘training’ of new maths lecturers is far from being fit for purpose, and the Education Ctee has lobbied hard (and will continue to lobby) for proper, subject specific, training of new lecturers.

Finally I firmly believe that to convince the powers that be to fund maths we must continue to make the case for the beauty, power, relevance and importance of ALL branches of mathematics to everyones lives. To this end the Education Ctee supports a number of initiatives to popularise mathematics including the popular and Gresham lectures, the Holgate scheme with schools, the small educational grants and the British Science Festival. I passionately hope that the LMS and its members will continue to support, and get involved with, this work. As a research mathematician I feel a great responsibility for educational and public engagement activities to explain what our research is about, to motivate and enrich our teaching and to ensure continuing support for research.

I am conscious that with the major changes that are happening both within the LMS and beyond, that it is important that all LMS members have the opportunity to make their views known in the education debate, and I plan, if elected, to host an LMS meeting in which various bodies actively engaged in maths education can meet with members, and that by doing this we can together forge a really effective policy for maths education in the future.

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