Have your say on maths curriculum;Letter

16th July 1999 at 01:00
THE CONSULTATION on the Secretary of State's proposals for the national curriculum in England has provoked surprisingly little comment in the TES.

Debate has undoubtedly been hindered by the fact that the consultation materials have only been sent to one in 10 schools, and that subject proposals are not available as separate documents.

The materials are available on the Qualification and Curriculum Authority website, but many teachers do not have ready access to the internet. In consequence few teachers have had the opportunity to examine the proposals.

In mathematics the creation of separate programmes of study for key stages 3 and 4, with the key stage 4 programme split into two tiers, foundation and higher, raises many questions which need full debate.

Quite justifiably the Secretary of State is concerned about a curriculum which is "failing to engage a significant minority of 14 to 16-year-olds". In mathematics it continues to be a very large "minority" and the solution is far from being obvious.

The problem will not be solved by a key stage 4 programme of study which, apart from a few modified statements is identical to that proposed for key stage 3. The structure of the present curriculum gives teachers much greater flexibility to develop programmes for the "significant minority".

Furthermore the proposed higher tier for key stage 4 also repeats key stage 3, with additional content that it is largely the same as that in the current curriculum. Again, the present structure gives much greater flexibility.

Although it is stated that both tiers proposed for key stage 4 "do not anticipate any decision about tiering arrangements for public examinations", it would be naive to imagine that such a significant change would not have a major influence on thinking about the future structure of GCSE.

I urge all maths teachers to look at the consultation documents, which can be obtained from the QCA on 01787 884444 or on www.qca. org.ukncr and to respond both individually and by writing to me, so that a wide range of teachers' views can be incorporated into the Mathematical Association's response. Consultation ends on July 23.

Doug French

Lecturer in Education Institute for Learning University of Hull Hull HU6 7RX

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