Back in 1989 when the national curriculum was introduced, I co-edited the Collins primary maths scheme STEPS. So it's with a strong sense of deja vu that I've watched a new wave of schemes hit the market. Virtually every major publisher wants to convince primary schools that its scheme will be the solution to delivering the Framework for the Teaching of Mathematics.
It's hardly surprising teachers are anxious. They need to know they have the right resources for themselves and their pupils. But let's think for a moment about why schools choose to buy commercial schemes. Some of the reasons they give are:
* They provide continuity, progression and consistency of teaching approach.
* They help to implement the relevant programme of study.
* They are a ready source of teaching ideas.
* They help pace work.
The list could go on, but the key point is that the framework itself does all these things.
Schools can't afford to make unnecessary purchases, so it may be best to resist the temptation to splash out on a new scheme until you are sure you really need one.
If you have a pre-framework published scheme:
* Contact the publisher to find out what materials it is producing, correlation guides, for instance, which identify activities to support objectives in the yearly teaching programmes, or top-up activities produced to plug the gaps.
* Be prepared to use the scheme's teacher and pupil materials flexibly - each teacher is likely to need access to more than one teacher's guide throughout the year. This has implications for storage, so that access to materials is possible at all times.
* Regard the scheme as a resource to use alongside others. At the short-term planning stage, identify the best resources you can find to support your learning objectives within the allocated time. Sometimes your schemes will not be your first choice, but, as has always been the case, the teacher's guides will often have relevant ideas.
* Use the framework examples to generate lesson plans.
* As implementation of the framework is monitored in its first year, review any commercial scheme you are using with other resources. At this stage, you may identify the need for new purchases, such as ideas for the "starter" part of the lesson or you may decide to invest in a new scheme.
If you do buy a new scheme, good luck. Just be clear what you want from your purchase and why. A good selection of teacher's guides may be the answer. A teacher friend commented that the best published scheme is always the one that becomes available just after you've made your choice - a bit like buying a car. And remember, older models can sometimes do the job just as well, so give them a chance.
Anne Woodman is a primary maths consultant TES FRIDAY october 1 1999 .
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