Rishi Sunak maths pledge: pupils taught by teachers without relevant maths qualifications, government data shows

Rishi Sunak wants all students to be studying maths until they are 18 years old but government figures show schools are already challenged in finding qualified teachers.

​The PM ​wants all students in England ​to study maths in some capacity until they are 18 years old​.​The PM ​wants all students in England ​to study maths in some capacity until they are 18 years old​.
​The PM ​wants all students in England ​to study maths in some capacity until they are 18 years old​.

Children in secondary schools across England are being taught by maths teachers that are insufficiently qualified in the subject, official government figures show. 

In a speech this morning (17 April) in north London Rishi Sunak said the UK must shed its "anti-maths mindset" and reiterated his ambition for children to learn maths up to 18 – but his government’s own figures show 11.6% of teaching hours in the subject are being taught by teachers that have no relevant post A-level qualifications in the subject. The situation is likely brought on by the limited supply of qualified specialist teachers, with additional Department for Education (DfE) figures showing hundreds of maths teaching vacancies remain unfilled each year across England. 

The PM said all students in England should study maths in some capacity until they are 18 years old, adding that the "cultural sense that it’s OK to be bad at maths", is "putting children at a disadvantage" by failing to provide them with the analytical skills necessary for the modern workplace. He did not go as far as making maths A-level compulsory. 

Labour’s Bridget Phillipson criticised the plan as an “empty pledge”, saying it cannot be achieved without more maths teachers. Education secretary, Gillian Keegan, also declined to say how many more maths teachers she believes will be required to carry out the new government policy when asked on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme.

Maths remains one of the hardest teaching subjects to fill. The most recent available data shows there were 232 maths teacher vacancies across England when a census of teachers was taken in November 2021 – making it the joint hardest subject to fill alongside general/combined science. Of the 32 teaching subjects, it also had the 7th highest vacancy rate. 


Additional figures published by the DfE shows the government's Initial Teacher Training (ITT) recruitment target for new secondary school teachers ​was ​missed by 41% in 2022/23, down from 79% in 2021/22. 

Last year there were almost 1,600 full and part-time teacher vacancies at secondary schools in England, while 2,200 jobs were filled by temporary staff signed to contracts that last under a year.

The figures include full- and part-time classroom teacher vacancies as well as temporary filled number of posts in state funded secondary schools.

But it is not just maths that is being taught by teachers with insufficient qualifications. Engineering was found to have the greatest proportion of teaching hours filled by teachers without post A-level relevant qualifications, with 80.3% of hours taught by such teachers. Other STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) subjects were also experiencing a lack of expertise including chemistry, ICT and physics. Of the 32 subjects, maths had the 23rd highest proportion of hours taught by teachers with no relevant post A-level qualifications.

The situation has improved in recent years, however. The proportion of teaching hours taught by teachers with relevant post A-level maths qualifications has dropped to its lowest level in eight years