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Sum hope for the future

Is your department one where enthusiasm for maths is "all-pervasive"? Does your departmental meeting point serve as a "social base for staff" as much as it is a focus for work? And are exam results seen as important, but not so dominant that teaching for pupils' longer-term progression and wider interest in the subject is neglected?

If so, your working conditions are close to ideal. Or at least that is the view of the Mathematical Association, which has just sent a leaflet to all UK schools and colleges advising how they can retain good maths teachers.

Its advice builds on a study published last year which provided case studies of maths teachers variously enthused, frustrated, overworked and inspired in their careers.

Retaining maths teachers is seen as vital, with reports showing that teaching shortages in the subject are often acute, particularly in schools at the bottom of league tables.

But Doug French, chairman of the association's teaching committee, said that while ministers emphasised recruitment, retention was often less of a focus. Hence the leaflet.

It is targeted at three groups of people who the association believes can make a difference: subject leaders, senior management and the Government.

Mr French said two issues were common themes in what were important to retaining teachers' enthusiasm: schools needed to keep pupil behaviour under control, and they should not let league table concerns and exam results dominate teaching too much.

The association is offering case studies of good practice at www.m-a.org.uk. The research study, Career Patterns of Secondary Mathematics Teachers, is available free from 0116 221 0013.

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