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Wednesday, July 8, 1998 Published at 15:31 GMT 16:31 UK


Calculator ban marks return to tradition

There is a renewed emphasis on 'whole class' teaching

Children under the age of eight will be banned from using calculators under the government's drive to improve the quality of maths lessons.

Mike Askew of King's College, London: Concern over excessive detail
Ministers want to see traditional methods of teaching the subject come to the fore as they look for improved levels of numeracy.

Times tables and mental arithmetic are among the "tried and tested" methods which primary schools across England will be encouraged to use. But some educationalists fear this moves too far towards telling teachers exactly what and how to teach.

[ image: Professor Reynolds:
Professor Reynolds: "Individual working hits test scores"
Primary teachers will be required to teach maths every day for up to an hour from September, 1999 - the so-called "numeracy hour." They will also be expected to set regular homework in the subject.

The recommendations for schools are based on a report drawn up by the government's "numeracy task force", chaired by David Reynolds, professor of education at the University of Newcastle-upon-Tyne.

Professor David Reynolds tells BBC News that whole class teaching is the best way forward
It wants to see more "whole class" teaching, with the teacher out in front leading rather than children filling in worksheets individually or in groups.

According to the report, children in Britain currently spend 80% of maths lessons working on their own, and only 20% being actively taught.

It does not recommend banning calculators, but the government intends to issue guidelines soon preventing their use by younger children.

[ image: Calculators OK - once children know the basics]
Calculators OK - once children know the basics
The report also wants greater emphasis on number work - which is given higher priority in other European and in Far Eastern countries - rather than on broader approaches such as problem solving and data handling.

The Education Secretary, David Blunkett, has announced funding of £60m to back the campaign. Some of this money will be used to train teachers, some to employ 300 numeracy experts who will be on hand to advise schools.

David Blunkett on Radio 5 Live: "We are mixing old and new"
Mr Blunkett said on BBC Radio 5 Live that the new form of whole class teaching would seek to involve children in what was going on.

He believes it is necessary for children to have a grasp of mental arithmetic - hence the limit on the use of calculators.

"We will equip people to do it properly so that the calculator, the computer, becomes our servant rather than our master," he said.

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