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Do you think that Maths & English should be made compulsory after GCSE level?

Do you think that Maths & English should be mandatory after GCSE level?

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Matt N

CF Legend
Hi guys. Currently in the UK, Maths and English are only compulsory up to GCSE level, so students only have to study them up to age 16.

However, that could change if Rishi Sunak wins the Tory leadership race and becomes Prime Minister of the UK. As part of his 3-point plan to transform education, he is proposing a new British Baccalaureate, which would force students to study Maths and English to A Level, so up to age 18: https://www.mirror.co.uk/news/politics/teens-should-study-maths-english-27678933

Sunak’s argument for this is that in most other Western countries and advanced economies, students are forced to study Maths and English up to age 18, and he feels that it will “hold us back” if students do not have the Maths and English skills gained by studying those subjects to A Level.

But I’d be keen to know; do you agree with Rishi Sunak’s thinking? Do you think that Maths and English should be compulsory past GCSE level?

Personally, my answer is no. I do not agree with Maths and English being made compulsory at A Level.

My reasoning for this is that not everyone likes these subjects, and to put it bluntly, I think forcing everyone to study them to A Level would prevent a significant proportion of students from fully utilising their potential and channeling it into the path they want to take.

Not everyone enjoys Maths and English, not everyone flourishes at Maths and English, and not everyone wants to pursue paths related to these subjects. I myself studied A Level Maths, and from my own experience, I would not advise it unless you are very talented at Maths and/or want to pursue a career in STEM.

If you don’t mind a little story, let me tell you about my experience.

For some idea, I did reasonably well at Maths throughout lower secondary school; I was always in the top set from Year 7 right through to Year 11, I got a 7 (A) in GCSE Maths and somehow managed a B in GCSE Further Maths despite struggling with the material a fair amount. With this in mind, I thought “yeah, I’m pretty good at Maths; why not give the A Level a go? And why not do Further Maths as well? The challenge sounds fun!”. Suffice to say, I either massively overestimated my mathematical ability, massively underestimated the difficulty of mathematical subjects at A Level, or most likely a combination of both.

I only managed 4 months doing A Level Further Maths before dropping it; I did 2 exams in that 4 months and got Us in both of them despite doing a fair amount of revision, and I spent every lesson staring at the whiteboard, dumbfounded, thinking “what on Earth just happened?”. No matter how hard I tried to understand it, it just didn’t sink in at all.

A Level Maths started off OK; during AS, it was all right. I struggled with Year 12 Maths a bit more than GCSE Maths, but it was OK; I felt like I had somewhat of a grasp on the subject. But Year 13 was a whole different story; the difficulty ramped up quite significantly at A2 level compared to AS level, and many lessons were giving me horrible flashbacks to my brief foray into AS Further. Once again, I often found myself staring at the whiteboard, dumbfounded, thinking “what on Earth just happened?” A fair few of my mock exam results during Year 13 were Ds and Es in spite of me doing a fair bit of revision, and even when I properly put my all into revising the subject and trying to understand it before the end of my A Levels, I only just scraped a C at the end.

I apologise if you didn’t want to hear that whole story, as I appreciate that that whole extract probably sounds a bit self-centred (sorry…), but my point is; if someone like me who did fairly OK at Maths at GCSE found the A Level a tough uphill struggle and hit some real low points while studying it, I can imagine it being an incredibly demoralising experience, and incredibly gruelling, for someone who struggled with Maths in lower school. Also, I’m not really sure that A Level Maths would have a lot of relevance for most unless you’re pursuing a career in STEM. Will someone going down a vocational path, such as health & social care, really need to know material such as all the differentiation and integration rules, and exponentials and logarithms, and numerical methods, and sequences and series? Probably not.

As for A Level English; I had one taster lesson of A Level English in Year 11 and I really didn’t understand it at all… I can certainly imagine I would have struggled with the A Level, and I can’t imagine it would have been at all relevant to my aspired career path.

But in conclusion, I do not personally agree with students being forced to do English & Maths past GCSE level. I think many students don’t flourish best when doing these subjects, and many don’t really need to know the A Level material unless they go into a career path that heavily leans upon the subject.

But what’s your opinion? Do you agree with me, or do you think Maths & English should be mandatory up to age 18?


Staff member
Social Media Team
Having to study something up to a certain age isn't the same thing as having to study it to a certain level. There are no suggestions (from what I can see) pointing towards mandatory A' levels. Clearly, that would be ridiculous.

Firstly, A' levels in any subject are dependent on decent GCSE grades beforehand. Nobody is expecting students with poor GCSE results to tackle A' levels. Secondly, for those who do take A' levels, nobody is going to force two of those to be in unwanted subjects.

From what I can see, it's in relation to the introduction of a baccalaureate system. In that case, then yes it makes perfect sense to continue with Maths and English as part of the overall qualification. It would actually be necessary in order for the qualification to be in line with European equivalents.

So yeah, if the UK moves towards a baccalaureate system, it makes sense to continue teaching Maths and English up the end of that course.


Hyper Poster
I'm not too into what's going on in the UK but Sweden is facing a similar issue.

In Sweden there are two types of high school programs. One is a university preparatory and another is vocational. University preparatory has programs in natural science, social science, humanities (basically language), arts, technology and economics. The university preparatory programs lead to university admission.

There are a lot more vocational programs including plumber, carpenter, lorry driver, etc. These programs lead directly to a profession and usually don't allow for university studies unless they are supplemented later on.

In 2011 we got a new high school curriculum (usually changes every time we get a new party in charge). Anyways, this government created a basic curriculum which all students need to take regardless off what they study. It includes maths, Swedish, English, social, religion, history and natural sciences. While this seems pretty basic for university preparatory programs I think it utterly pointless for vocational programs. Nowadays a plumbing student will sit almost half of his time in the classroom learning things which he might never use as a plumber instead of getting more plumbing classes. Alternatively they could offer courses which are necessary for the profession such as administration or entrepreneurship for plumbers. It might help if they want to open their own business. There is also a big shortage of qualified teachers in Sweden and this usually results in qualified teachers choosing to work at a university preparatory high school rather than a vocational one. A maths teacher might prefer teaching maths to natural science or technology students who are a lot more interested in their subject over plumbing students. Therefore these vocational school usually get the lowest quality teachers, many of whom are not qualified or educated. Their vocational teachers are a different story, they might be very qualified.

In the end I think forcing a basic curriculum on all students regardless of program choice is a waste of time for some and I think it makes the vocational programs worse and leads to for example less educated professionals.

Is the UK issue similar?


Giga Poster
In Victoria English was mandatory but maths was not.

But you had a choice, you could take:

“English”, the vanilla version most students take.

“English language” which was more of a science/lexicology type subject.

“English Literature” which you might describe as “Further English”.

“Foundation English” for students taking the vocational route is offered, which is easier and I think basically makes sure you have a level of English suitable for day to day life and business.

Mathematics has a similar number of variants, of varying difficulty, plus a “Foundation Mathematics”, again for making sure students at least have a level of skill for day to day life and business.

I think everyone going through should have some form of maths and English, because you do use both of these things in day to day life, but it doesn't necessarily have to be a huge challenge, they just need to be competent in it.