Lecturers need more class time, say trainees

23rd May 2008 at 01:00
Many lecturers who train teachers are "out of touch" with the modern classroom, say primary maths teachers
Many lecturers who train teachers are "out of touch" with the modern classroom, say primary maths teachers.

Their criticism comes as the Government tries to increase the availability of university training in their subject. The Department for Children, Schools and Families (DCSF) last week signed a pound;1.8 million university contract to train more specialists in primary maths.

The Association of Teachers of Mathematics (ATM), in a joint submission with the Mathematical Association, agreed that primary maths teachers needed better training to improve their skills.

But they criticised university lecturers who are providing initial teacher training (ITT), saying the courses needed to be longer and provide more time in schools.

"ITT lecturers should spend some time teaching in schools," they said. "It was felt that many were out of touch with modern classrooms."

Their submission was written for the ongoing Williams Review of primary maths, which is due to report this autumn.

The two maths associations suggested that teacher-training universities should be obliged to offer continuing training to teachers at their partner schools, rather than just using such schools to place trainees. This would have the added bonus of helping universities to demonstrate teaching practice in the classroom, rather than theory in the lecture hall.

The associations said they supported plans for greater continuing professional development (CPD) and wanted ring-fenced funding for maths training in schools.

They also suggested teachers could take two weeks from their summer holidays for training, as in some American states.

Jill Mansergh, convenor of the ATM's primary group, said many teacher trainers and CPD lecturers had not worked in schools for years.

"It would be helpful if lecturers understood the pressure teachers are under," she said.

She cited changes such as the literacy and numeracy strategies, and assessment for learning.

"Classrooms are very different places from what they were 10 or 11 years ago," she said. "In order to have street-cred with the teachers, you need to spend time in the classroom."

Lynne McClure, of the Mathematical Association, added that most lecturers had some relevant school experience.

"But the longer they've been out of the classroom, the less easy it is to understand the plight of the ordinary teacher," she said.

The DCSF defended the quality of teacher-training lecturers, saying they were monitored by Ofsted inspectors and the Training and Development Agency for Schools.

"The standard of ITT providers, including universities, is very good," a spokesman said.

The DCSF last week awarded a pound;1.8m contract to Edge Hill University in Lancashire, the biggest teacher-training institution, to oversee the training of primary maths specialists.

Robert Smedley, Edge Hill's dean of education, agreed it was vital for ITT lecturers to keep abreast of the latest developments in the classroom. He said the university employed serving teachers in every primary subject team - including maths - to reflect the latest class-room practice.

Tanya Byron, the clinical psychologist who headed the Government's review of children's online safety, was last week named as Edge Hill's first chancellor.


By 2010-11, the Government wants 1,600 specialists providing individual support to 30,000 six- and seven-year-olds who are struggling with maths in class.

The targeted intervention, under the banner of Every Child Counts, will be piloted in 10 Lancashire schools from next month.

Nick Dowrick, head of Every Child Counts programmes at Edge Hill University in Lancashire, said the intervention would be an investment in the education of all children.

"Not only will the programme benefit the children who most need help with their mathematics, but it will also have a wider impact on primary schools as a whole by raising standards for all children," he said.

Research showed that pupils who left school struggling with maths tended to have more problems in coping with adult life than pupils who could not read, he said.

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