History of MEI

Early days

In the early 1960s, there was considerable interest in proposals to 'modernise' school mathematics. At the time B. T. (Bertie) Bellis was head of the Mathematics Department at Highgate School, in North London. He had begun to question whether his sixth form mathematicians were being well served by the current syllabus - bearing in mind that not all of them were likely to go on to read mathematics as a university subject. Equally, he had reservations about some of the proposed changes, and felt that it was important to investigate the needs of those who would go on to use their mathematics in other academic disciplines; and also the demand for a mathematical background in industry, commerce and the professions

In 1962, when he had the prospect of a Schoolmaster Fellowship in Oxford in the following year, Bellis started a detailed investigation. He spent the summer holiday of 1962 with BP, based at its head office in London. He was able to gather a great deal of detailed information on which to base his work as 'Schoolmaster Student' at Balliol College during the Hilary term of 1963

Bellis decided to try to contact others in London with similar interests. This led to the formation of the North London Schools Project in which initially Harrow, Latymer Upper and University College School joined with Highgate. The group met regularly at Highgate School. Members visited various companies and organisations as well as university departments, providing reports for circulation within the group

The name 'Mathematics in Education and Industry' made its first appearance in 1961 as the title of a major conference sponsored by BP, in conjunction with the Schools and Industry committee of the Mathematical Association and chaired by Theodore Combridge, the President of the MA. BP was represented by Steven Mullaly. When, later, Bellis prepared a report on his work for the Schools and Industry committee, both Combridge and Mullaly gave the 'North London Schools Project' their wholehearted approval, which led to it being adopted as 'The Mathematics in Education and Industry Schools Project' - soon to be known simply as MEI.

Steven Mullaly gave unstinting encouragement to the Project in its early days, arranging for funding from BP to be made available to Highgate School, so that Bellis could spend half his time as Director of MEI

At this stage, schools outside the original North London Group started to express an interest in MEI and so the organisation began to grow.

Naturally members of the MEI group wished to see their experiences reflected in their teaching, and it was agreed that it was most appropriate to make changes, first, in the Additional Mathematics syllabus at O level. This led to the question of examinations. Fortunately all the schools involved used the O&C Joint Board, and, at a meeting in Cambridge, examiners readily agreed to the proposal for an MEI Additional Mathematics paper at O level. This would include questions related to probability, statistics, and computing - all new at this level.

At about this time, the group was in contact with Geoffrey Matthews, then head of department at St Dunstan's. At St Dunstan's they were proposing changes for the syllabus up to O level, so this fitted neatly with the work at MEI. It made sense, therefore, for MEI to concentrate on Additional Mathematics and sixth form work. This cooperation was later formalised, and for several years O level papers carried the heading MEI (St Dunstan's).

The first MEI Additional Mathematics examination was held in the summer of 1965.

Bellis was appointed headmaster of an Edinburgh school in September 1965. Stuart Parsonson from Harrow School took over as Director of MEI. The group continued to meet regularly in Highgate, though less formally, at The Wrestlers.

The examinations for the new project continued to be provided by the Oxford and Cambridge Schools Examination Board and candidate numbers grew steadily if not dramatically. By the early 1980s there were about 100 member schools taking some or all of the MEI examinations; there were approaching 2000 candidates at A level and about 5000 at O level. The early syllabuses were highly innovative. They were, for example, the first to include probability at A level.

1990 Modular A Level

Innovation continued, often based on ideas from working teachers. One such was the suggestion, made by Peter Bossom, at that time a member of the mathematics department at Monkton Combe School, that we should develop a modular A Level. This led to the introduction in 1990 of MEI Structured Mathematics. The committee that developed this syllabus was chaired by Roger Porkess (until then head of mathematics at Denstone College) who then started working full time for MEI overseeing its implementation.

This syllabus altered the scale and scope of MEI. Candidate numbers increased by a factor of about 10 and this necessitated a permanent office and full time staff. For the first time textbooks, a series published by Hodder and Stoughton, were published to support an MEI course. INSET was provided on a regular basis.

The introduction of Structured Mathematics also brought about a change in the membership. Until then most of the schools in MEI had been independent; these were now joined by large numbers of maintained schools and colleges of Further Education. These new institutions brought with them a greater variety of students and this led to broadening of MEI's work, for example providing materials for Key Skills and addressing the needs of students on GNVQ courses.

2000 Further Mathematics

In 2000, a major new initiative to promote Further Mathematics began. The underlying vision was that every student in the country who would benefit from studying Further Mathematics should be able to do so. The initial funding for a pilot project, "Enabling Access to Further Mathematics", came from the Gatsby Charitable Foundation. The project was led by Charlie Stripp. When this proved successful the government, in 2004, decided to fund its roll-out across the whole of England. The new programme was called the Further Mathematics Network and its work resulted in large increases in the uptake of Further Mathematics, both at AS and A Level. The scale of MEI's work increased considerably with the Further Mathematics Network and the small permanent staff expanded into a much larger team, all highly talented.

The Further Mathematics Network ran for four years. Over that period the number of students taking Further Mathematics qualifications in England rose by over 230% at AS Level and by nearly 90% at A Level.

In 2009, the Further Mathematics Network was replaced by the Further Mathematics Support Programme (FMSP) and MEI won the competitive tender to run it. This programme also operated across England but had a wider brief, including teachers' professional development for Further Mathematics, and information, advice and guidance, as well as providing student tuition. In 2013 The Department for Education (DfE) announced that it would provide MEI with substantially enhanced funding for a further three years to continue and extend the work of the FMSP, working with the National Centre for Excellence in Teaching Mathematics (NCETM) and the Institute of Education (IoE).


MEI has been providing professional development for teachers throughout its history, from hour-long conference sessions focusing on particular aspects of the curriculum, to year-long courses supporting teachers as they progress to teach a new area of mathematics.  The highly successful Teaching Advanced Mathematics (TAM) programme was an offshoot of the FMSP; the initial project was called "Upgrading Mathematics Teachers". This was renamed “Teaching Advanced Mathematics” once Bernard Murphy (now Programme Leader for CPD) was appointed. The pilot programme was funded by the Gatsby Charitable Foundation. TAM is targeted on those teaching mathematics up to GCSE and, in a 15 month part-time course, provides them with the subject knowledge and pedagogy to teach A Level with confidence. This programme has changed the professional lives of hundreds of teachers. It is run in conjunction with universities across the country and can lead to up to 60 CAT points for masters level accreditation. In 2012 the Teaching GCSE Mathematics (TGM) course was developed by MEI for teachers wishing to develop their own subject knowledge and classroom practice in teaching GCSE Mathematics. MEI also runs a Teaching Further Mathematics course and this is associated with the Further Mathematics Support Programme.

MEI holds the NCETM Continuing Professional Development (CPD) Standard, and our portfolio has expanded to respond to developments in curriculum, both within MEI and national, and to meet the changing requirements of teachers. New staff members have joined the Professional Development team to facilitate MEI and the FMSP’s ability to develop and deliver courses, both face to face and live online. MEI continues to hold its annual 3-day conference at academic venues around the country.

Chief Executives

In the summer of 2010, Roger Porkess retired from his role as MEI Chief Executive, having held the position for 20 years. Roger had seen MEI grow from an organisation with no staff, to one with over 20 members of staff, almost all of them working full time for MEI. Under Roger's leadership, MEI became a much more significant contributor to mathematics education at a national level. Roger was succeeded as Chief Executive by Charlie Stripp in September 2010. In 2013 Charlie Stripp took up the post of Director of the NCETM as a 0.5 FTE secondment, enabling him to continue as Chief Executive of MEI.

Recent Development

MEI is involved in many different areas of mathematics-related work and plays an active role at a national level in creating an environment in which mathematics can flourish. A summary of our recent work can be found in our Annual Review and Accounts 2013-14

Chairs of MEI

In position from

Martin Reed

2016 - Current

Gerald Goodall

2010 - 2016

Peter Mitchell

2004 - 2010

Jean Snook

2002 - 2004

Randal Cousins

1997 - 2002

David Edsall

1996 - 1997

Irving Steggles

1990 - 1996

Douglas Butler

1983 - 1990

Alan Sherlock

1978 - 1982

David Edsall

1972 - 1978

Stuart Parsonson

1965 - 1972

Bertie Bellis

1963 - 1965