Maths staff are overloaded

5th April 1996 at 01:00
It was hard to read Professor David Burghes's article (TES, March 15) without feeling angry about the position maths teachers are in.

During the past 10 years our department has changed its approach with: * more teacher exposition and full-class discussion; * more emphasis on writing "workings" so that "someone from another country could read it"; * modularising our School Mathematics Project 11-16 booklets into topic units with supplementary worksheets to create a more concentrated period and structured practice on each topic; * making a clearer pattern of homework and assessment.

Certainly we have seen the improvements which Professor Burghes suggests are possible but these are in danger of being eroded now, as in many schools, because the duration of each lesson has been reduced in order to include technology without reducing existing choices.

Furthermore, the teacher load has in consequence been increased by extra classes to maintain the overall contact time and the proportion of lessons for maths has been reduced.

Our timetables are so packed with lesson preparation that marking every pupil's work before the next lesson is impossible if we are to get any rest and sleep.

Certain topics like probability and statistics take a disproportionate amount of time in Years 7 and 8 that we would rather spend on number and algebra skills. But how do we do that and still meet our legal requirements at key stage 3? These topics are noticeably omitted from his research. Why? Is it because these topics are not covered elsewhere because they require greater maturity for their interpretation?

There are other factors not mentioned in the article: How does the pupils' and teachers' "day" compare? How do teachers' workloads compare? In which countries is pastoral work not a stated responsibility of each teacher? What else is in their curriculum (both maths and overall)? What effect does "not moving up a year if they don't pass" have?

These factors are important. Most teachers I know are working to the point of exhaustion to meet the demands of changing curriculum and examinations (and not disadvantage any pupils) - hardly a desirable or effective state. Sir Ron's review did not go far enough.

MARGARET POSTON Head of maths Saint Michael's Catholic grammar school North Finchley London N12

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