Staff and students at the Exeter Maths School in 2015

The “lifechanging” opportunities offered by the pioneering Exeter Maths School is helping to boost the STEM skills of children throughout the South West.

This year marks a decade since the innovative specialist sixth form opened to pupils and the school community is celebrating ten years of success.

Since the school opened the uptake of young people studying the Further Maths qualification in Cornwall, Devon and Somerset has increased by 77 per cent, 78 per cent and 88 per cent respectively – over 10 per cent more than the average for England.

Teachers carry out substantial outreach work to boost maths skills in the region, including residential summer schools, courses to upskill teachers from other schools and workshops on computational thinking.

Headteacher Kerry Burnham said: “I am hugely proud of the work our of staff and students over the past decade. Our vibrant and inclusive atmosphere is obvious to anyone visiting. We are a school where able maths enthusiasts thrive, and our support and curriculum has a positive impact on their lives, making life-changing opportunities available to them.

“We take our role in feeding the pipeline of mathematical talent needed in the UK extremely seriously. Investment in our school is an investment in our region. We look forward to working with many more students and to being able to have access to more space and facilities.”

The Exeter Maths School, which has 128 pupils, is sponsored by Exeter College and the University of Exeter and specialises in Mathematics, with all students taking A Levels in Mathematics, Further Mathematics and either Physics, Computer Science or both.

Bursaries are available to support students to board if they live too far away to commute daily. There are plans to build new boarding facilities in the future, allowing an expansion in available places.

By all standard measures, EMS outperforms all state schools within its catchment area and most throughout the country.

EMS has been rated as outstanding in all areas by Ofsted, including boarding provision and in 2018 was named the ‘Sunday Times Sixth Form of the Year’.

The specialist curriculum at the school goes well above and beyond that normally experienced by sixth form students. Courses such as the Exeter Maths Certificate and Curriculum X provide challenging and enriching experience of research, university-style study and Industry experience. Carefully crafted problem-solving courses develop students thinking, communication and strategy, equipping them for the future.

Mathematics, physics and computer science is taught with more depth and rigor than usually required at A-level.

In 2022 64 per cent of students secured places at Russell Group or Sutton 30 universities with 9 per cent attending Oxford or Cambridge. All the most disadvantaged students went on to study for STEM degrees of which 74 per cent were at highly selective universities. Alumni have gone on to higher level courses such as PhDs and many work in STEM-related industries.

Professor Janice Kay, from the University of Exeter, said: “The University of Exeter and Exeter College are incredibly proud of the work of the staff and students at Exeter Maths School. Through our successful partnership and outstanding maths education, teachers and students have made the school a national centre of excellence and raised the aspirations of young people across the region. Over 10 years it has become one of the country’s best sixth forms and it is wonderful to see how many people are going on to work in businesses and industry critical to the UK economy using maths-rich skills.”

John Laramy, Principal and CEO of Exeter College said: “We are incredibly proud of our partnership with one of the first mathematics schools in the country. A decade ago, we set out to make a difference to mathematics education and to help establish a new model which has now been rolled out nationwide. The results from the school and the partnership with Exeter College show in action, word, and deed the power of education. We eagerly anticipate another decade of brilliance, making a difference to mathematics education across the region.”

On Wednesday 24th April The University of Exeter, Exeter Maths School, and Exeter College will jointly host a celebration event marking 10 successful years of Exeter Maths School. The University will host an interactive day for all regional schools, filled with workshops and speakers, engaging young creative minds and generating excitement and interest in the disciplines across mathematics and STEM.

Pupils from the region will hear talks from world leading speakers such as James Grime, Sir David Spiegelhalter, Dame Jocelyn Bell Burnell, Ben Sparks and Katie Steckles. University of Exeter academics will deliver interactive workshops designed for pupils to challenge themselves and come up with creative ways to understand our world and the challenges facing current and future generations. There will also be a reception for University staff, the National Maths School network, national policy makers and those in industry contacts. Sir David Spiegelhalter and Rich Bevan, from the Met Office, will deliver speeches on the importance of mathematics and STEM education to support the country’s future national prosperity.