A pardon for Alan Turing

Alan Turing has been granted a posthumous pardon, overturning his 1952 conviction for homosexual activity. Making the announcement, the British Justice Minister Chris Grayling commented “Turing deserves to be remembered and recognised for his fantastic contribution to the war effort and his legacy to science. A pardon from the Queen is a fitting tribute to an exceptional man.”

This has given rise to the most extensive national and international media
coverage of Alan Turing and his legacy ever.

Internationally the response has been predominantly positive – Peter van
Emde Boas caught the mood with his “Congratulations with this success; it
doesn’t make the UK any less strange however… “. The fact the pardon
was 61 years coming was universally commented on.

In the UK, many were unhappy with the word ‘pardon’ wanting something recognised that the fault was that of the state. Everyone was concerned about others who had had lives ruined by the same law – and, like Turing, had died before they or their families could benefit from the recent legislation, which enables those living to apply to have their convictions ‘disregarded’ and wiped from the records. Here is the Stonewall guide to the Protection of Freedoms Act 2012 (relevant to many of the “75,000 others” – in some places “50,000 others” – widely commented on):

The Cambridge Student webpage nicely captured the mood “Alan Turing’s pardon is simply not enough”, and got the facts right:

Many first heard the Royal Pardon news via radio or TV on Christmas Eve – for instance on the BBC Today programme that morning, with JohnHumphrys interviewing Baroness Trumpington and Barry Cooper:



Baroness Trumpington was specially generous in her praise for Lord Sharkey, whose private members bill introduced in the House of Lords played such a large part in the eventual outcome. See also the BBC page “Royal pardon for codebreaker Alan Turing” with further videos: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/technology-25495315

Other Christmas Eve interviews included Sue Black in one for The Telegraph “Alan Turing’s Royal pardon is long overdue”: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/history/world-war-two/10536644/Alan-Turings-Royal-pardon-is-long-overdue.html

And Barry Cooper’s interview for Sky TV News in the afternoon:


You can also hear Barry interviewed on BBC Radio 3 Counties by Roberto Perrone (thanks to the BBC and Mark Cotton) at the Alan Turing Year AudioBoo webpage: https://audioboo.fm/AlanTuringYear

Dominic Cummings: Some thoughts on education and political priorities

Dominic Cummings, the former special adviser to the Secretary of State for Education Michael Gove, published a 237 page document, Some thoughts on education and political priorities. It is a very interesting paper, and it is much concerned with mathematics education and deserves attention from the mathematical community — even if some readers might find some points raised controversial.

The paper is written by a thoughtful and well-informed person who is passionate about mathematics and mathematics education. However, the paper’s most striking feature is that it bears the hallmarks of “the voice of one crying in the wilderness” (John 1:23). The pages overflow with untested (although frequently brilliant) ideas, that have apparently blossomed outside any structurally sound referential framework. These 237 pages effectively document the absence of a proper public discourse on mathematics education policy.

And it is something we should not blame Dominic Cummings for; it is we in mathematics education community who are largely responsible for the silence that replaces policy discussions relating to mathematics education in this country.

The De Morgan Forum and The De Morgan Gazette have been set up with the aim to provide a space for voicing opinions — and maybe raising controversies — about issues in education policy which affect mathematics. Despite 500,000 hits over the last two years and some excellent papers and curriculum documents published in The De Morgan Gazette, we are still far from reaching this objective. We wish to invite the readers to face the challenge and use Dominic Cummings’ paper as an opportunity for a well-informed discussion of mathematics education.

QS World University Rankings by Subject 2013 – Mathematics

Mathematics in British Universities with their world rank according to QS World University Rankings by Subject 2013

1 University of Cambridge
5 University of Oxford
12= Imperial College London (shared with Caltech and U. Toronto)
23 The University of Warwick
38 University of Bristol
46= The University of Manchester (shared with Nanyang and Auckland)
51-100 King’s College London
51-100 The University of Nottingham
51-100 University College London
51-100 University of Edinburgh
51-100 University of Leeds
101-150 University of Glasgow
101-150 University of Southampton
151-200 London School of Economics
151-200 Queen Mary University of London
151-200 University of Bath
151-200 University of Birmingham

Is ATM against “formal written methods”?

From a letter published by the Association of Teachers of Mathematics (ATM) in The Guardian, 29 July 2013:

The Association of Teachers of Mathematics is dismayed at the programmes of study for mathematics just published [...] The curriculum as presented will result in more attention spent on developing technical competence in outdated written methods for arithmetic at the expense of developing secure foundations for progression through mathematical concepts and skills. [...] Appendix 1, entitled formal written methods for multiplication and division, but including addition and subtraction as well as multiplication and division, is a complete travesty and needs to be removed.

See the original letter at The Guardian

Schools ask pupils to sit GCSE maths exams twice

From The Independent:

Thousands of teenagers are being put in for multiple GCSE maths exams in the hope they will get crucial C grade passes in at least one of them.

The practice is exposed by the exams regulator Ofqual today as it reveals that 15 per cent of candidates sitting GCSEs  – around 90,000 candidates – were last year submitted for maths exams with more than one board. Ofqual officials believe there will be a repeat this year because the pressures that drove schools to do it  – including boosting performances in league tables – are still there.

Read the full article.

National Curriculum to be published today

From BBC:

The re-written national curriculum, to be published on Monday, will set out the framework for what children in England’s state schools should be taught between the ages of five and 14. [...] However academies – which are now a majority of secondary schools – will not be required to follow the curriculum. [...]

The changes will include fractions for five year olds [...]

Education Secretary Michael Gove said the new-look curriculum would provide the “foundation for learning the vital advanced skills that universities and businesses desperately need – skills such as essay writing, problem-solving, mathematical modelling, and computer programming“.

In maths, there will be an expectation of a higher level of arithmetic at an earlier age. There will be a requirement for pupils to learn their 12 times table by the age of nine, rather than the current 10 times table by the age of 11.


Universities urged to sponsor free schools specialising in maths

From The Guardian

Universities are being urged by the government to sponsor new free schools specialising in mathematics, in a plan supported by the Office for Fair Access (Offa) to encourage talented students from disadvantaged backgrounds to study maths at degree level.

As an incentive to open the new schools, universities will be allowed to fund them using budgets otherwise reserved for improving access to higher education for under-represented and disadvantaged groups.

According to letters from education minister Elizabeth Truss to the heads of higher education maths departments in England, universities will be able to sponsor the new free schools through a fast-track, simplified procedure, and without the competitive application process normally required of those bidding to open free schools.

“This country has some brilliant university maths departments and world famous mathematicians,” Truss wrote.

“But there is no denying there is a big jump between studying maths in schools and colleges – even for those students taking A-level further maths – and what those young people go on to study at university.”

If the scheme takes off, it could create a network of selective free schools teaching 16-19-year-olds under the aegis of their local universities, providing academic support and strong links between higher education and local populations.

Les Ebdon, director of Offa, said: “I’d be happy to see more university-led maths free schools because of the role they can play in helping able students from disadvantaged backgrounds access higher education.

“It is for individual universities and colleges to decide whether or not this is something they want to do, but Offa is supportive of anything that is targeted at under-represented groups and helps them to fulfil their potential.”