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China maths exchange led to 'better than expected' pupil progress

Teachers reported resistance from some schools when offering to share the lessons from Shanghai

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Teachers reported resistance from some schools when offering to share the lessons from Shanghai

Teachers taking part in the government’s high-profile maths exchange with China believe their pupils have progressed “more than expected”, a new evaluation has found.

But, efforts to share the approach with other schools have often been hampered by resistance from some senior leaders or a lack of staff capacity, the authors warn.

Academics from Sheffield Hallam University researched the effects of the Mathematics Teacher Exchange, which first took place in 2014-15, involving 48 English primary schools.

It saw teachers and leaders visit Shanghai, or host Chinese maths teachers, and bring Shanghai practices to their schools.

The second and third interim reports into the programme, published today, state: “The majority of teachers reported that pupils had progressed 'more than expected' on a number of indicators including mathematical talk, pupils' knowledge and understanding of key mathematics, and pupils engagement in class.”

But, it adds that teachers: “found it more difficult to comment on attainment, due partly to changes in assessment”.

The report also highlights positive impacts on teachers.

There were 41 schools which discussed positive teacher outcomes, with 34 saying the project had enhanced teachers' knowledge of maths and 12 saying teachers' confidence had increased.

Almost half (19) of these schools also found the project changed teachers' beliefs around maths education, adding: “The most notable belief change was in relation to recognising the potential of all pupils to achieve."

The academics said the majority of schools had done something to share their learning more widely, most commonly by modelling mastery teaching in their own school, and presenting and leading workshops at external events.

But, this was not always possible. “The most frequently mentioned barriers to working with other schools were resistance from senior leaders in those schools, particularly where attainment was high, and the lack of staffing capacity in lead primary schools which meant they were unable to release staff to work with other schools,” the report added.

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