Failure to see numeracy success

6th June 2003 at 01:00
WHILE it was pleasing to see that you felt our research results relating to the national numeracy strategy were important enough to be featured on your front page (TES, May 9), we would like to dissociate ourselves from the accompanying headline which suggests that the strategy has been a failure.

It has certainly been successful in bringing about some long overdue and positive changes to the content of the curriculum and the way it is taught, and has raised standards of mental addition and subtraction significantly.

Primary teachers feel much more confident and in control of what they are teaching, and well supported by local consultants and the central strategy team.

We thus agree with much of what Anita Straker says (TES, May 16) - however, we must refute the charge in her letter that our results are unreliable.

We used quota sampling on six criteria in contrasting local education authorities in different parts of the country to provide 35 schools. This is a more efficient way of ensuring that all types of school with all types of intake are included than using a random sample. The national test results of our sample schools turned out to differ by less than 1 per cent from the national average. Complete year groups in Year 4 in these schools were tested on the same numeracy test in both October and June in 19978 and in 20012, with over 1,200 pupils in each cohort participating twice.

In almost two-thirds of the 35 schools in both October and June, the Year 4 results were higher in 20012 than in 19978. But the success of the strategy is in improving some important aspects of the teaching of primary numeracy, not just in raising test results.

Margaret Brown, Mike Askew and Alison Millett

Department of education and professional studies King's College London, London SE1.

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