'This School has the potential
to do enormous good'

Pioneering learning and widening participation will be focus of
new Cambridge Mathematics School partnership

“Data is everywhere - it’s collected by social media channels, it measures climate change, it’s being presented to us on a daily basis during the pandemic - and it’s more important than ever to understand what that means.”
Professor Colm-Cille Caulfield, University of Cambridge

The Cambridge Mathematics School – a new state-funded specialist sixth form being developed in partnership with the University of Cambridge – will open in September 2023 with a focus on pioneering learning and increasing diversity in the field of maths.

Based in Mill Road, Cambridge, the School will welcome 16 to 19-year-old A-Level students from across the East of England, and aims to attract more female students into maths subjects, more minority ethnic students, and more students from socially and educationally disadvantaged backgrounds.

The Eastern Learning Alliance (ELA) - a multi-academy trust with schools across Cambridgeshire and East Anglia – will run the Cambridge Mathematics School, in collaboration with the University. All students will study maths and further maths, and then choose from physics, chemistry, biology or computer science A-Levels. The School will join a nationwide network of maths schools, one for every region of England, announced by the government.

The principal aim of maths schools is to help prepare more of the UK’s most mathematically able students to succeed in maths disciplines at top universities, and address the UK’s skills shortage in science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM) subjects.

"As well as its commitment to excellence, the University is committed to widening participation."

Clare Hargraves, The ELA’s Curriculum Lead for the Cambridge Mathematics School, said: “We’re delighted to be partnering with the University of Cambridge to create the Cambridge Mathematics School. The School will offer a new and innovative approach to learning in A-Level maths, and associated subjects, and help young people manage the jump to degree-level mathematics.

“As well as bringing together a community of the region’s top-performing maths pupils to study an enhanced curriculum in Cambridge, the School will work with students across the whole of East Anglia as part of an extensive outreach programme, sharing tools and knowledge, and nurturing mathematical and scientific potential.”

The School will draw on the University’s widening participation and outreach experience, in particular the success of The Millennium Mathematics Project (MMP) and its NRICH programme, which provides online mathematics resources for ages 3 to 18 - completely free and available to all.

Professor Colm-Cille Caulfield, Head of the University’s Department of Applied Mathematics and Theoretical Physics, said the University and Cambridge colleges would work together with the ELA on the project, and materials and learning created through the partnership would be shared with other schools to benefit students across the UK.

“Mathematical skills are essential to 21st century life, and the Cambridge Mathematics School will be an exemplar of best practice in the subject,” he said. “Initiatives like this help to demystify the beauty of mathematics, and help us to appreciate how it enriches and informs our day-to-day lives.”

The importance of maths and its role in broader society, in helping to address the world’s most pressing challenges, is reflected in the Department’s most recent research activities on health and sustainability.

“Something that has clearly been demonstrated over the past two years is the importance of having a mathematically literate public,” said Prof Caulfield. “An understanding of mathematics is a critical part of being a member of society.

“Mathematics isn’t just arithmetic. People think, ‘oh, I wasn’t very good at maths at school, because I wasn’t very good at my times tables’, but maths is more than that. Data is everywhere - it’s collected by social media channels, it’s used to measure climate change, it’s being presented to us on a daily basis during the pandemic - and it’s more important than ever to be able to understand what that means.”

And it is important that everyone has the opportunity to develop these skills.

“As well as its commitment to excellence, the University is committed to widening participation, and this School partnership has the potential to do enormous good in terms of addressing inequality and reaching the brightest students, regardless of background,” said Prof Caulfield.

“One of the areas we want to look at in particular is how we might make the subject more attractive to female students, who are traditionally underrepresented in maths. It’s about getting the message out that this is something for all of us.”

"Seeing more female students progress through maths would be a very exciting outcome."

Dr Ems Lord, Director of NRICH

The University’s Faculty of Mathematics includes some very strong female role models, said Prof Caulfield. Among them Julia Gog, whose expertise in infectious diseases and virus modelling has seen her contribute to the pandemic response, including as a participant at SAGE meetings; Mihaela van der Schaar, Director of the Cambridge Centre for AI in Medicine, and Carola Bibiane Schönlieb, Head of the Cambridge Mathematics of Information in Healthcare Hub.

"Seeing more female students progress through maths, and choose a career in the subject, would be a very exciting outcome of the School partnership," said Dr Ems Lord, Director of NRICH.

“Maths is the most popular A-Level, but when you look at further maths it disproportionately attracts boys,” she said. “As part of our existing outreach work, we encourage students to see the applications of maths across a huge range of fields, and through our association with the new School we want to see how we can get more girls interested in maths and linked subjects.”

The Faculty’s long-standing commitment to outreach and widening participation has supported schools across the UK for more than two decades, and as part of this work it encourages students studying GCSEs to consider studying A-Level maths, and particularly A-Level further maths. Julia Hawkins, Deputy Director of the Millennium Mathematics Project, said the Cambridge Mathematics School collaboration would be an enhancement of this work.

“We hope the University’s partnership with the Cambridge Mathematics School will be an exciting opportunity to develop and share ideas, but it won’t be exclusive – it complements the ongoing outreach efforts that have been running for 20 years in the Faculty of Maths, and our commitment to helping schools across the country.

“We have a very well developed programme of enhancement for schools. It goes all the way from early years education (age 3) up to the transition to university at 18, and for applicants to university – particularly those whose schools have less experience with applying to Cambridge – we also provide support with developing their advanced problem-solving skills, and preparing for interview and the STEP exam.”

"The School will work with students across the whole of East Anglia as part of an extensive outreach programme."

Clare Hargraves, Eastern Learning Alliance

Dr Matthias Dörrzapf, Director of Studies in Mathematics at St John’s College, one of the Cambridge colleges that will collaborate on the project, said: “This exciting new school will be a fantastic opportunity to boost high level mathematical skills across the region and to create a truly outstanding institution with great enthusiasm around mathematical sciences.”

Professor Graham Virgo, Senior Pro-Vice-Chancellor for Education at the University of Cambridge, said: “Excellence in education is at the heart of the University’s mission, and Cambridge works hard to ensure its world-class learning and research directly contributes to wider society. This collaboration builds on our outreach programmes and long-standing relationships with schools and colleges around the country; we look forward to sharing our expertise and enriching the work of students and staff at the Cambridge Mathematics School.”

More information available at: https://cms.tela.org.uk/

The text in this work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.