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Horseshoe is lucky in maths

THIS year, 11-year-olds from the Becontree estate in east London, achieved maths results that put their primary, Cambell junior, in the same league as those in the leafy suburbs of Richmond, writes Geraldine Hackett.

Across Barking and Dagenham scores have climbed since the borough introduced the Improving Mathematics Project, developed by its inspectorate and the National Institute of Economic and Social Research. Five years ago the council was a "bottom 10" authority for key stage 2 maths, but it is now 70th from bottom in the national tables out of 150 LEAs.

While next week's report from the Office for Standards in Education is expected to praise the numeracy strategy for improving results nationwide, the scheme appears to have been a major factor in raising standards.

Teachers get more detailed lesson plans and are not expected to group children by ability.

At Cambell junior, 85 per cent of 11-year-olds achieved the rquired level in maths - better than the national average of 72. In 1996, only a third of that year group reached the required level.

"All classes sit round in a horse-shoe and teachers use overhead projectors, so they do not have their backs to the children," says junior school head Adrian Lucas. "The emphasis is on teaching the class as a whole and requiring children to discuss the concepts they are learning."

Material from the local authority sets out the content of each lesson and takes children through the maths at a faster pace than the national strategy.

However, the results achieved by the juniors are beginning to be eclipsed by the infant school that shares the site. This year, 92 per cent of seven-year-olds achieved at least level 2b, compared with the national average of 73 per cent.

Mr Lucas said: "It is beautifully prescriptive and means teachers do not constantly have to re-

invent the wheel."

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