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£41m boost for Asian-style primary maths teaching

Half of primary schools to adopt approach used in Shanghai, Singapore and Hong Kong

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Half of primary schools to adopt approach used in Shanghai, Singapore and Hong Kong

Thousands of primary schools in England will copy the South Asian style of teaching maths, the Department for Education has said. A £41 million scheme will help more than 8,000 schools – half the total number in England – to adopt the approach, which is used by leading maths performers including Shanghai, Singapore and Hong Kong. International tests showed that in these places the proportion of 15-year-olds who were unable to perform basic calculations was more than 10 percentage points lower than in England. The South Asian maths mastery approach is already used in a number of England's schools following a teacher exchange programme between England and Shanghai. The funding will ensure that the approach is used more widely, with an initial 700 teachers to be trained to support schools in maths mastery. First used in England in 2014, maths mastery involves children being taught as a whole class, building depth of understanding of the structure of maths, and is supported by the use of high-quality textbooks. Schools minister Nick Gibb, who visited Shanghai in March to see maths teaching in practice, will announce the expansion in a speech at the Advisory Committee on Mathematics Education (ACME) conference today.

'Renaissance in maths teaching'

Mr Gibb said: "We are seeing a renaissance in maths teaching in this country, with good ideas from around the world helping to enliven our classrooms. "The significant expansion of the South Asian maths mastery approach can only add to the positive momentum, with thousands more young people having access to specialist teachers and quality textbooks. "I am confident that the steps we are taking now will ensure young people are properly prepared for further study and the 21st-century workplace, and that the too-often-heard phrase "Can't do maths" is consigned to the past."

Russell Hobby, general secretary of school leaders’ union the NAHT said that support for the more effective teaching of maths was "always welcome".

But he added: “The success of such a programme will also depend on sufficient numbers of well-trained and well engaged teachers to deliver it. The government must put far more effort into teacher recruitment and retention.”

Mr Gibb’s announcement came as the government published an interim evaluation of its recent exchange scheme involving maths teachers in primary schools in England and teachers in Shanghai, which took place in 2014 and 2015.

The report said: “Across all 48 schools, most teachers reported that the changes implemented since the Shanghai teachers' visit had led to positive outcomes for pupils. These outcomes included increased enthusiasm for mathematics, deeper engagement, increased confidence and higher levels of attainment.

“There are early indications that the exchange has the potential to meet its core aim of fostering a radical shift in mathematics teaching in primary schools and to impact on pupil attainment.”

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