SECONDARY maths teachers are told to give regular homework and mark it promptly in a set of detailed government guidelines. They will be expected to tailor their lessons to the precise and demanding guidelines from September.
A detailed maths framework, the fruit of a year-long pilot in 17 education authorities, has been released by the Department for Education and Employment.
The framework - nearly 90 pages long - starts by explaining what is expected of schools in target-setting, staff training and help for pupils who need to catch up.
It gives four aims for maths teaching: establishing high expectations and setting targets; strengthening transition between key stages; boosting pupils' motivation and participation; and providing professional development for teachers.
There is detailed advice on raising standards through school leadership, teaching methods and assessment, as well as advice on timetabling, lesson structure and using maths across the curriculum.
Key objectives and a teaching programme set out what pupils from Years 5 to 9 should learn and understand. The framework document includes 60 pages of exhaustive guidance on maths teaching at key stage 3.
This urges staff to use "a high proportion of direct, interactive teaching" and set activities "relating to a common theme". Numeracy, introducing and developing areas of study, thinking skills and the role of information technology are all covered.
A tpical paragraph on page 40 of the guidance says: "During every lesson absorb and react to pupils' responses, see whether they are confident or hesitant with new work, decide whether they need extension work or more help and offer immediate support. Where you notice any difficulties or misunderstandings, you adjust your lesson and address them straight away."
On page 30 teachers are told they "should set regular homework, modifying its presentation for any pupils who need this... By marking homework promptly you can glean useful diagnostic information on who has learned what and who needs extra support..."
There are sections on how to teach pupils of different abilities, assessment, target-setting and planning. The document is backed up with a hefty, separate supplement listing topics that should be covered in Years 7, 8 and 9.
Margaret Brown, professor of mathematics education at Kings College, London, said there was a "problem with the quality of teaching" of key stage 3 maths and the guidance could help staff.
"Children are not making as much progress as we would like. If teachers treat the framework as helpful guidance, then it will be most useful."
But she admitted that there was a "degree of prescription" in the strategy and implied that the initiative may have been rushed. "It may have been helpful to allow the pilots to run for another year," she said. "But we are working to the politicians' timetable."