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Bribes could increase maths intake

Oxford rector suggests cash reward for A grades

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The head of an Oxford college has suggested that simple bribery might help boost the numbers of students taking maths at A-level.

Frances Cairncross, the rector of Exeter College, says a £500 reward for students who get a grade A at A-level might help sustain a recent increase in the number of students taking the subject, the BBC reports.

The number of students taking maths rose slightly last year, up almost six per cent on the year before. However, this followed a massive slump in entries a couple of years earlier.

Cairncross told reporters at the opening of the annual festival of the British Association for the Advancement of Science: "We still have fewer young people entering for maths A-level than in 2001. I want to see the recent upturn encouraged."

Of those studying maths and science A-levels, more than half of the top grades are awarded to students in independent schools.

"As head of an Oxford college, I cannot believe that those seven per cent of children who are educated in the independent sector are so much more brilliant than children in the maintained sector. I think that maintained schools are failing children in these crucial A-levels," Cairncross said.

She argued that the skills gained in studying more academic subjects (as opposed to, say, theatre studies) would be invaluable in helping the country have an informed discussion about issues like climate change.

Inevitably, there are those who disagree. The Beeb says John Dunford, general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders, dismissed the notion, saying kids ought to chose the right subjects for them, not ones that might make them a bit of extra cash. ®

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