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Tuesday, March 16, 1999 Published at 17:20 GMT


Maths policy could add to paperwork

Unions are concerned that a numeracy hour will increase paperwork

Dedicating an hour a day to maths in primary schools could add to the problems already created by the 'literacy hour', claims a teachers' union.

As the Prime Minister Tony Blair announced details of the 'numeracy hour' as part of a national campaign to improve standards in maths, the Association of Teachers and Lecturers warned that this could mean more bureaucracy and less teaching.

The union's general secretary, Peter Smith, said that the government should listen to the experiences of teachers with the literacy hour before pressing ahead with the introduction of a numeracy hour.

[ image: Peter Smith says the government should listen to the experiences of teachers with the literacy hour]
Peter Smith says the government should listen to the experiences of teachers with the literacy hour
"There are vital lessons to learn from the introduction of the literacy hour. It is the teachers who deliver high standards in the classroom. Their voice must be heard."

Mr Smith said that a survey of members had revealed "increased bureaucracy and workload problems" as a result of the literacy hour.

Teachers have complained the introduction of an hour a day for reading and writing has been accompanied by excessive paperwork in terms of record keeping and documentation.

There have also been concerns that the literacy hour does not provide for the variation in teaching needed for the most and least able pupils in a class.

The shortage of maths teachers also concerned Liberal Democrat Education Spokesman, Don Foster, who warned that this could be a major stumbling block for the government's efforts to improve maths.

"The government must acknowledge that crisis in our classrooms and take very positive action to encourage more people to come forward with appropriate qualifications in maths to work as teachers," he said.

The Shadow Education Secretary, David Willetts, said a strategy which was applied to all schools indiscriminately was unnecessary.

"Where a school is already achieving good results in numeracy they should be free to carry on with their existing teaching methods," he said.

"We obviously support raising standards in literacy and numeracy. But the government's approach of fixing one method for all schools, regardless of their performance, and all children, regardless of their abilities, will not work."

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