No desperate bid to improve numeracy skills

As regular readers of your publication we had no hesitation in allowing a reporter and photographer to visit the school to write about a maths game which we use. Your articles have always seemed supportive of efforts made by teachers to improve teaching and enhance learning. We were upset, therefore, to read the article (TES, November 15). Far from being an objective view of the game, the article paints a biased and inaccurate view of the maths curriculum at our school.

As we had been asked to show pupils who use the game in school, the majority of children involved were those who found maths difficult and not representative of the whole ability range. All the members of staff involved felt unhappy about the way parts of quotes had been put together to give misleading images. We would like to correct a number of these.

There is certainly no "desperate bid to improve numeracy skills". On the contrary, our Office for Standards in Education inspection report dated January 1996 states that "standards of numeracy are sound" and "there is clear improvement in pupils' levels in numeracy as they proceed through the school".

Our endeavours to enhance number skills were to balance previous emphasis on "using and applying" and "data handling" as we, like many other teachers, grappled with an ever-changing curriculum. Changes were made coincidentally with the encouragement and advice of inspection and advisory services, not because of them.

The statement that problems occur if pupils are "not supervised properly" is written in such a way that the impression is given that when pupils try an inaccurate calculation "no one corrects them". Although this was contradicted in the next sentence, we felt offended by the negative way good teaching practice was described as "corrected only when the teacher spotted the mistake".

As pupils are actively encouraged to follow each other's play and challenge the scores, there is little opportunity to "cheat". In fact, as we pointed out on the day, pupils often develop new rules to increase the fairness of the game.

The whole tenor of the article seemed to undermine the efforts of a dedicated, well-skilled group of staff. Your reporter should have done more to reflect the children's perceptions of the good practice which goes on. They recognised that "the game had helped them", "you do learn sums you couldn't do before and you remember them after" and "it helps with the basics of maths and my divisions have now got quicker". They certainly don't find maths tedious or boring at Oak Farm School.




Head of mathematics

Oak Farm Community School



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