Maths 100, an Open University-style club, will offer pupils from 9 to 18 tutorial help and specially designed maths activities from this autumn. For pounds 140 a year, compared with the pounds 600 cost of most private tutoring, pupils are given material for two half-hour sessions a week and the number of a tutor who is available on the telephone from 6pm until 8pm each weekday.
Cheryl Maiden, director of the non-profit making foundation, said: 'There may be some teachers who feel threatened by this but it is meant to complement, not replace, school work. League tables comparing schools are here to stay. People are only going to look at the results, not what extra help students have received.'
The scheme, devised by four former teachers and maths advisers after consulting parents and heads of maths, is designed to help children who have a particular problem in the subject, those whose confidence is low and those who need more practice. It is not for those who require remedial help but is well suited to very able pupils.
They can sign up for the scheme through their schools or individually. A trial began in January. Eight schools have signed up for September and another 12 for October. Prospective students are screened in an hour-and-a-half-long interview at their school or their home. If they join the club, they are invited to remain members throughout their school careers.
The course materials offer a blend of traditional and modern methods so children will benefit however they are taught at school.
The foundation's market research before the scheme was launched suggested there was demand among parents for extra help with maths. Single parents, Asians, Afro-Caribbeans and middle-class parents wanting coaching for private school exams all said they would be prepared to pay.
Ms Maiden said: 'There is an element among working-class families which still thinks the school should do it all, but they are a small minority.'
She added that parents felt reasonably confident about helping their children with reading and writing. Maths was another matter. The subject had changed so much in the last 20 years that even parents of young children found themselves floundering. The foundation hopes to offer scholarships for children who cannot afford the fees.
Ms Maiden said: 'The aim is to put the sparkle back into maths and to make students more comfortable with maths so that they will take it to A-level and go into fields which will support the country's economic engine.'
Maths 100 can be contacted on 0491 574327.
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