Page last updated at 12:58 GMT, Tuesday, 3 June 2008 13:58 UK

Most maths teachers 'not experts'

Maths lesson
One in four maths teachers has no relevant qualification

Less than half of maths teachers in England's secondary schools have a degree in the subject, despite a massive recruitment campaign.

The government-commissioned study also found fewer maths lessons were being taught by specialists.

A multi-million pound TV, newspaper and cinema advertising campaign to boost the number of specialist maths teachers has been run over the past few years.

Ministers said the lack of maths graduates was not unique to teaching.

The survey of 327 secondary schools in England found that generally teachers had a degree in the subjects they taught.

Economic importance

This tended to be more likely in the sciences, with 90% of these teachers having what was categorised as a relevant post A-level qualification.

We are doing as much as possible to persuade people to turn their talent to teaching
Training and Development Agency for Schools spokeswoman
In biology, for example, 85% of those teaching the subject had a relevant degree, as did 83% of those teaching chemistry and 72% of those teaching physics.

But the figures showed that only 47% of those teaching maths had a relevant degree, although 75% had a post A-level qualification of some sort.

One in four maths teachers did not hold any relevant post A-level qualifications, which include BEds, PGCEs and Certificates of Education.

And the percentage of lessons taught by maths specialists dropped from 88% in 2002 to 84% in 2007, according to the report, the Secondary school curriculum and staffing survey 2007.

The figures came out as a think tank decried the falling standards of mathematics in public examinations and the loss of a "nation of mathematicians".

Exams have changed from being a staging-post to further study to being a series of 'tick-boxes'
Reform report

Maths teaching has also been the focus of a massive recruitment campaign in recent years by the government-funded agency the Training and Development Agency for Schools.

The agency has spent 40m on teacher recruitment over the past five years alone. This has largely focussed on the priority subjects of maths and science.

A spokeswoman said it was really hard to recruit maths graduates because they were in very high demand.

"Fewer students are studying science, technology, engineering and maths subjects at A-level and degree level, meaning a smaller pool from which to draw in an increasingly competitive graduate labour market," she said.

"In addition to our recruitment campaign, which uses advertising, PR, face-to-face events, direct marketing, career exploration programmes and an information line, we have a range of incentives to increase the supply of maths teachers."


These included enhancement courses for existing teachers of other subjects to bring their maths skills up to date, returners' courses, and bursaries of up to 9,000 and golden hellos of 5,000.

However the survey, carried out by the National Foundation for Educational Research, found there had been an overall increase in the share of teachers with degrees in the subjects they taught compared with 2002.

There was a rise of 10 percentage points in the overall share of teachers with degrees or higher qualifications in relevant subjects.

Schools Minister Jim Knight said there had been a revolution in the teaching workforce and shortages remained only in a few areas where all sectors were struggling to find qualified staff.

"The lack of maths and science graduates is not a problem unique to teaching and even with these challenges, 90% of science teachers have a relevant post A-level qualification," he said.

Poverty gap

The survey also showed that schools with higher numbers of pupils eligible for free school meals tended to have fewer teachers with post A-level qualifications relevant to the subjects they teach.

Grammar schools had the highest proportion of specially qualified teachers.

Schools with the poorest pupils had the lowest number of teachers with relevant post A-level qualifications.

This fact was highlighted by Liberal Democrat schools spokesman David Laws.

"It's no wonder that many young people from deprived backgrounds struggle to do well when so many are taught by people who are not well qualified in the subject they are teaching," he said.

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