Minister wants a ‘culture change’ in maths

Education minister Liz Truss visits Outwood Grange Academy
Education minister Liz Truss visits Outwood Grange Academy
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FOUR high performing Yorkshire schools could help play a role in changing the country’s attitude towards maths, according to a Government minister who says it should not be acceptable for people to say “they are rubbish” at the subject.

Outwood Grange Academy, in Wakefield, Harrogate Grammar School, Notre Dame High School in Sheffield and Trinity Academy Halifax have been chosen to be part of a network of national maths hubs which will seek to emulate the success enjoyed in the subject in top performing East Asian countries – including Japan, Singapore and Shanghai.

There are 32 schools across the country which will lead hubs backed by £11m Government funding.

They will be expected to follow the Asian-style mastery approach to maths where teachers ensure all pupils understand a concept before moving on.

The hubs will also be expected to share lesson plans with other schools to prevent teachers “having to reinvent the wheel.”

Lesson plans will be made available online so any teacher can use them and rate which are most useful.

For schools to become maths hubs they had to be rated as outstanding overall and for both their quality of teaching and their leadership and management.

Education Minister Elizabeth Truss visited Outwood Grange last week to highlight the new programme.

She told The Yorkshire Post that she wanted to change the way in which the country thought and talked about maths.

“It shouldn’t be acceptable for people to say I am rubbish at maths.”

Ms Truss said there needed to be a change of culture which recognised both the importance and the potential of the subject. She also said parents had a part to play. “They should not say to their children that they were not were very good at it but look to promote it as an interesting subject.”

Ms Truss said the Government had looked to learn lessons from “high performing jurisdictions” in East Asian countries.

“What is interesting is that the child of a cleaner does better than the child of a professional in England. They deliver good results for all their children”.

Hubs will work with academics from Shanghai Normal University and the UK’s National Centre for Excellence in the Teaching of Maths.

Later this year, 50 teachers from Shanghai will be sent in the hubs to teach pupils and run masterclasses for other teachers.

Ms Truss said that one of the things which had impressed her most during her visit to Outwood Grange was the willingness to try to improve how they teach despite already being rated as outstanding.

The techniques and methods used will include daily maths lessons, homework and catch up to ensure all children master core techniques.

The Department for Education want to ensure pupils develop a “deep understanding of formal maths including addition and subtraction, long multiplication and long division in line with the new national curriculum, as well as times tables and number bonds.

Ms Truss said: “There is no reason why children in England cannot achieve the same standards in maths as those in Japan, Singapore and China. We put in more resources in England than in these countries and we have the best generation of teachers ever. Yet our children are two to three years behind by the age of 15. We must learn from the systematic practice of these high achieving countries, who are constantly seeking to improve.

“Maths hubs will bring this approach to all parts of the country and all schools will be able to benefit.

“Maths is the most important subject for a child’s future- it commands the highest earnings, provides the best protection against unemployment and will get you everywhere, opening doors to dozens of careers.”