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Maths tests show gains

Despite a lack of maths teachers, national results are rising, says John Howson.

THIS year there was a 3 per cent rise in the percentage of pupils at key stage 2 in England achieving level 4 or above in the maths tests. The rise in maths scores is particularly impressive given the relative shortage of qualified maths teachers in schools.

As might be expected, there were some large percentage gains, because some local education authorities that had performed poorly in 1999 had caught up. In London, Hammersmith and Fulham witnessed a rise of 10 per cent from 60-70 per cent. Similarly, large gains were recorded in Nottingham, Rotherham and Slough. There is now no LEA achieving below 60 per cent at level 4.

Despite this, the gains have not been uniform across England. A third of London LEAs seem to have registered relatively small gains, or in a fe cases none at all. Whether this is related to staffing problems is not possible to determine. Some of these LEAs made large gains in the previous year. What is clear, however, is that London LEAs account for five of the 10 lowest places, but only six of the top 26 places. Two-thirds of the London LEAs fall below the national


On the other hand, there have been large percentage gains in about a third of the new unitary authorities and in a number of cities in the north of England. Few counties made substantial gains but most made progress.

As new policies such as Excellence in Cities and education action zones have their desired effects, standards can be expected to rise even further in the next few years.

John Howson is a visiting professor at Oxford Brookes University. Contact him via email at:

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