The main object of Mr French's ire is exam reform. Maths GCSE was changed this September to become a two, rather than a three-tier qualification, giving every pupil a chance of at least a C grade. Greater change is in the offing. Next year coursework will be dropped from maths GCSE, although the precise arrangements are not yet clear.
From 2010, new functional skills tests - probably assessing pupils'
abilities to perform simple calculations, retrieve data from a spreadsheet and master basic algebra - will begin. Pupils will need to pass the tests to gain a good pass at GCSE.
From 2010 also, a second maths GCSE will be introduced, allowing pupils to demonstrate their abilities with more theoretical aspects of the subject.
However, Mr French said the reforms were taking place without any overall vision of the future of maths teaching. The problem, he said, stemmed from the Department for Education and Skills and its Qualifications and Curriculum Authority advisers.
The QCA's decision to sack all its officials with specialist maths expertise in the summer was particularly criticised within the subject community. And the sudden resignation of David Burghes as director of the National Centre for Excellence in the Teaching of Mathematics last month hardly lifted morale.
Mr French said: "I really despair at the lack of competence in running the whole system on the part of the Department for Education and Skills and the QCA.
"I do not feel anyone has really got a grip on the whole picture.
Everything is done in a piecemeal way, and it's an awful mess."
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