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'Every primary should have a maths champ'

Helen Ward
Published: 21 March 2008

Every primary school should appoint a teacher as a "maths champion" within the next five years to improve numeracy, a review of the subject has proposed.

The 15,000 maths champions would be paid more and be expected to work towards a masters degree in education, said Sir Peter Williams, whose interim review was published this week.

Despite improving results, he warned against complacency and said the UK "remains one of the few advanced nations where it is socially acceptable - fashionable, even - to profess an inability to cope with mathematics".

Professor Williams warned that the Government will need to provide more funding if it is to meet its promises of providing one-to-one tuition and other specialist support for 30,000 seven-year-olds who struggle with maths.

It has earmarked pound;79 million for 2010 for its Every Child Counts scheme and Every Child a Reader, which will help 30,000 six-year-olds with reading difficulties.

But Sir Peter said the maths scheme alone would cost pound;72m if it were delivered by qualified class teachers.

The maths specialists would be expected to champion their subject and improve the continuing professional development (CPD) of other teachers - an area the interim report said had deteriorated.

Jim Knight, the schools minister, said the Government had been concerned for a while about the quality of maths teachers' CPD.

He said ministers would look "very seriously" at the recommendations, including those for maths champions, but would not produce a full response until after the final report from the review in June.

Sir Peter said the final review would not recommend a single programme for maths teaching but would set out the key features required. Heads will be able to choose between programmes, in much the same way that they now choose between phonics schemes.

Sir Peter said: "We don't have concerns about teachers. We think the teachers we've got are great. But what can we do to get better?"

Mick Brookes, general secretary of the National Association of Head Teachers, said improving maths was important, but that the new job might create difficulties for small primaries.

He added: "If you have a maths specialist who needs more pay, then the logic goes, why not a specialist for languages or English? Why not ICT?"

However, the review found that out of almost 10,000 trainees on PGCE courses in 2006, only 227 had a degree in science, technology, engineering or maths. There was not time in a one-year PGCE course to do more than the current 10 to 15 days on maths, it found.

Teachers have six weeks to respond to the consultation at:

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