Janet Shapiro discusses PM’s stance on maths and the NHS
As someone who taught mathematics for about 40 years, I welcome any move to improve the numeracy skills of our citizens.
This includes PM Rishi Sunak’s plan for all pupils to study mathematics until 18. The subject has many facets affecting our lives. Motivation drives competence – gamblers get good at statistics, darts players subtract with ease and the low paid become experts on price differences.
The PM’s serious vision will need qualified mathematics teachers and a suitable curriculum. Do we have enough teachers? I know that conversion courses were held for years, by which qualified teachers from various disciplines became specialist mathematics teachers – and there were still too few!
Our group relies on good quality public services. Will this enthusiasm for numeracy lead to wise and objective government, with reports produced by experts being properly examined?
In November 2019, before Covid, a report was published by the British Medical Association entitled ‘London’s NHS: On the Brink’. It warned that inadequate funding had led to shortage of beds and critically high levels of staff vacancies – all threatening safe delivery of healthcare. The report is relevant now. In fact, the crisis has gotten worse, but was this report studied by Rishi Sunak and his ministers?
Increased funding for the NHS is affordable and can be organized by raising rates of National Income Tax but providing greater capacity and training more staff takes time.
More immediate effects could be achieved by launching a program of step-down beds and convalescent homes for all age groups and by paying healthcare and care workers a fair rate for the job. The first would slash queues at hospitals and the latter could reduce the number of vacancies and encourage existing staff to stay.
We are fortunate that the NHS is funded from National Income Tax. It is efficient and progressive; the wealthy pay more while everyone benefits as needed. To maintain a quality NHS I would certainly be willing to pay more Income Tax.
The prime minister should take responsibility. Workers should be paid the rate for the job, not asked to struggle on while short-staffed. They should not be subsidizing healthcare through their poverty pay.
Janet Shapiro on behalf of the Hornsey Pensioners Action Group.