Education secretary Nicky Morgan has proposed a Year 7 “progress check” for any pupil unable to reach the expected standard at the end of primary school.
The policy, which was included in the Conservatives’ general election manifesto, was developed in a bid to bring underachieving pupils up to speed in their first year of secondary school.
But the Meeting of Mathematics Subject Associations (MMSA), a group of six of the country’s leading maths subject associations, has urged Ms Morgan to reconsider the policy amid concerns that it will “distort” pupils’ early secondary mathematics experience.
“Those who have failed to meet the expected standard in key stage 2 need expert teaching that helps to build their confidence and mathematical understanding; something that takes time to achieve,” the letter says. “Many such young people feel that they have ‘failed’ in mathematics and this proposal risks them ‘failing’ yet again.
“A Year 7 ‘progress check’ will distort learners’ early secondary mathematics experience, as teachers will feel pressured, as Year 6 teachers do, to ‘teach to the test’,” it adds.
The letter follows the release of an online petition, started by a secondary maths teacher, which claims the resits would “slow the secondary curriculum, create a testing culture and reinforce a language of failure inappropriate at such a young age”.
The group also warns that the length of time secondary teachers will have to bring the children up to the expected standard is not sufficient.
“It is not realistic to expect a new secondary school to be able to facilitate a deep-seated peer-comparable progression in mathematical competence over three months in a new school; when primary schools, who know the children well, have been unable to achieve that in six years,” it says.
And it adds: “We urge reconsideration of the proposed Year 7 ‘progress check’.”
The Department for Education said it was "determined" to ensure children were mastering the basics of numeracy and literacy. "Our proposals for re-sits of KS2 tests in Year 7 are part of this."
A DfE spokesperson added: “It is essential that secondary schools work with pupils who have fallen behind to catch them up quickly - we trust teachers to determine the best way to do this, focusing on teaching the curriculum and not drilling for tests. We will be consulting on our plans and will reflect the feedback we’re given. We will make sample tests available to schools when we have had a chance to consider responses.”
The Meeting of Mathematics Subject Associations, is a collaboration of the classroom-facing professional associations focused on mathematics education in this country: Association of Mathematics Education Teachers (AMET), Association of Teachers of Mathematics (ATM), National Association of Mathematics Advisers (NAMA), National Association for Numeracy and Mathematics in Colleges (NANAMIC) and the Mathematical Association (MA).