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Wednesday, January 21, 1998 Published at 16:09 GMT

UK: Politics

Maths lessons add up

The Government has backed a call for schools to concentrate on improving maths teaching.

The report by the Numeracy Task Force, set up by Labour before the general election, is intended to try to improve standards among ten and 11-year-olds.

Up to an hour a day of maths teaching is called for in all schools together with greater emphasis on regular mental and oral arithmetic to develop numeracy skills.

The Education Secretary, David Blunkett, said the report sent "very clear messages that we need to do better...and offers clear recommendations about how to bring about the improvements."

[ image: David Blunkett:
David Blunkett: "We need to do better in numeracy"
The report "will help parents and pupils to see that numeracy skills matter as much as literacy for success in education and life after school," he said.

"It sets an agenda for a clear programme of improvement in schools.

"It will enable us to develop a clear programme so that every child learns the skills of mental arithmetic and the important of numeracy for later life," he added.

The report recommends:

  • A comprehensive training programme for heads, governors and teachers to focus on "effective" methods of maths teaching.
  • A pilot programme of maths summer schools, to prepare children who have fallen behind for the transition to secondary schools.
  • An action plan developed by all primary schools, including targets for improvement.
  • Homework guidance to help parents play an active role in their child's education.

The Government has set a target of 75% of 11-year-olds reaching the expected standard for their age by the year 2002.

International studies show British schools lag behind competitor countries in basic numeracy - even though they are world-beaters in the practical application of maths.

Move welcomed by teachers

Nigel de Gruchy, General Secretary of the National Association of Schoolmasters/Union of Women Teachers, said he thought most teachers would "welcome the general thrust of the report".

"Contrary to some reports, it does not suggest a simplistic return to Victorian basics. It recommends a variety of teaching methods which have been shown to work well," he said.

"However, if more use is to be made of whole-class interactive teaching, the government must move with urgency to make this possible.

"It will have to deal with oversized classes, and mixed-age and mixed-key stage classes.

"In-service training for teachers and much more help in dealing with children with special needs and behavioural problems will be urgently required," Mr Gruchy added.

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