Maths teaching failing pupils, says Ofsted
22 May 2012
There has been a "dramatic" increase in the take-up of A-level and further mathematics and the youngest children are doing better but there are major concerns about the standard of maths teaching in primary and secondary schools in England, Ofsted has said.
One of the main problems is that not enough is being done to help pupils catch up who fall behind early. The 10 per cent who do not reach the expected standard at age seven doubles to 20 per cent by age 11 and nearly doubles again by age 16.
Also, pupils in lower ability sets and younger pupils tend to get the weakest teaching. And "lots" of the brightest pupils don't fulfil their potential when they get to secondary school – 37,000 of the highest attaining primary school pupils got no better than a grade C at GCSE in maths last year. Schools which routinely enter students early for GCSE mathematics are hindering their ability to reach the highest grades, Ofsted claimed.
Her Majesty's Chief Inspector Sir Michael Wilshaw said: "I want all children to have the best education they can and mathematics is a fundamental part of that. It is essential for everyday life and understanding of our world. Too many pupils do not fulfil their potential, including many of the most able, and those who get off to a poor mathematical start or fall behind in their learning never catch up.
"We know it can be done. Over half of the schools visited in the survey were judged to be good or outstanding in mathematics, although even in these schools some inconsistencies in the quality of teaching need to be tackled."
Wilshaw said all bodies, including Ofsted, must play their part to ensure all pupils receive the best possible maths education.
National Numeracy's chief executive Mike Ellicock commented: "We believe every child can become a numerate adult – with skilful teaching in school and encouragement at home. It is essential that we all recognise the need for better support for those who struggle to catch up – at school and post-school."
And Carol Vorderman, chair of the committee reporting last August to the Education Secretary, said the report was most welcome because it highlighted many of the issues that create an unequal playing field at all levels in school.
"Primary initial teacher training has not addressed the lack of mathematical ability in graduates training to be teachers, almost all of whom gave up maths at GCSE level," she said. "My sadness is to see how marked the difference in achievement and education is for those students on free school meals. As a 'free school meals kid' at a comprehensive myself it was only because of my superb maths teacher that I was able to get to Cambridge. It is time for change."