Do claims of falling standards add up?

8th September 1995 at 01:00
Rod Bramald previews next week's maths debate at the British Association festival.

Have standards in mathematics fallen over the past 10 years? Eminent speakers will debate the question at the British Association's annual festival of science in Newcastle next week.

Professor Carol Fitz-Gibbon of Newcastle University's CEM Centre is well known for her work on measuring standards in education. An ardent critic of the approach to measuring standards adopted by the Office for Standards in Education, she is co-author of a recent report from the School Curriculum and Assessment Authority which demonstrated that, at A-level, certain subjects - including maths - were up to two grades harder than others.

Dr Tony Gardiner of Birmingham University has called for more rigour and a return to traditional approaches in mathematics teaching and his controversial views will no doubt surface in his presentation.

The quiet and somewhat understated public persona of Richard Browne, professional officer for SCAA, belies his firm grasp of the issues surrounding the teaching and learning of maths in schools today. Doubtless he will be putting the "company line" in the debate.

Professor Harry Marsh of Durham University has been prominent on the Engineering Council for some years. Recruitment into engineering has become more difficult as school leavers have chosen alternative courses which they perceive to be less demanding.

Tom Wilson, head of department at Duchess's High School in Alnwick, has a reputation as one of the strongest and most effective teachers of maths in the region. He is certain to put the case for teachers persuasively.

Each speaker will be limited to five or six minutes for their input and then the debate will be thrown open to the floor. Maths specialists in the region have already been invited to attend, but this is a public debate and everyone is welcome.

o "Discovery and Invention" is the theme of this year's British Association Festival of Science, with a packed programme of talks, exhibitions and hands-on events at the University of Newcastle from September 9-15.

The mathematics debate, sponsored by The Times Educational Supplement, takes place on Wednesday, September 13 from 5-6.30pm.

Full details of all events from the British Association Festival office. Tel: 0191 222 7470. Fax: 0191 281 4000.

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