Opinion

Rishi Sunak's answer to the NHS crisis, sky-high energy bills and widespread strikes? More maths!

Sunak is choosing to pile even more pressure on struggling students and teachers while ignoring the immediate crises engulfing the nation, writes Rose Morelli

Rishi Sunak

Rishi Sunak has announced plans for all pupils to study maths until they are 18. Image: Rory Arnold / No 10 Downing Street

The British people are currently in peril. Drowning in bills, strikes and a general breakdown in public services, it’s unclear how a lot of us will make it through the next year in one piece. But nay fear! Rishi Sunak, official man of the people and working class hero – well, not working class – has the answer. 

Taking a break from huffing nitrous oxide behind the bins at Number 10, Sunak announced a ground-breaking new policy at PMQs this week: as part of a “reimagination of numeracy”, all school children will now continue to learn “some form of maths” past GCSE all through A-Level. 

“Letting our children into the world without those skills is letting our children down,” said Sunak, with all the worldly awareness of a former hedge fund manager.

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Thanks in part to his many hours transcending class by cosplaying as a working man, Sunak’s firm, calloused grip on the national pulse remains as strong as ever. He knows that the answer to a besieged Britain doesn’t lie with a cap on energy prices, or increased investment in the public sector: it lies with advanced geometry. Indeed, if I’ve learned anything from the last few years, it’s that the NHS would be in a better state if I’d just measured more triangles between the ages of 16 and 18.

With unprecedented levels of selective memory, the government justified their announcement today with some pretty shocking statistics regarding the UK’s numerical literacy. As well as noting that around eight million English adults have primary school level numeracy skills, they even acknowledged that 60 per cent of disadvantaged students finish their GCSEs without basic maths skills. Sunak is yet to acknowledge the austerity that causes said disadvantage, but to be fair, he’s probably busy with his Diana-level outreach, asking homeless people if they work in business.

The general logic of this move seems to be that, if tackling inequality and reforming our crumbling education system are out of the question, then we should simply throw more qualifications at the problem.

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It’s such a good idea that it doesn’t even need thinking all the way through. Sunak is so cocksure in his ploy to promote increased analytical skills that he’s done it without actually conducting any analysis. Instead of assessing why so many disadvantaged students are falling through the net, or whether the current maths curriculum is even fit for purpose, he’s simply opting to pile even more pressure on struggling students and teachers. After all, it wasn’t his wealth, private schooling or financial connections that equipped Sunak to beat the odds and become prime minister – it was his maths skills.

So, for now, struggling families across the UK can breathe a collective sigh of relief, as finally we have Sunak’s golden antidote to this numerically challenging era in British history. He heard our cries of chronic, spiralling debt and came through with an infallible solution: more maths. Rest assured, your teenage children will soon have enough numerical literacy to read the astronomical numbers on your energy bill – and what more could you want than that?

Rose Morelli is a freelance journalist

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