INSPECTORS have praised infant teachers for doing precisely what they were advised to do five years ago by HMI. Staff working with primary 1 to primary 4 classes have transformed their approach to mathematics by adopting direct, whole-class, interactive teaching and pushed up attainment substantially.
In a remarkable success story, national concerns about maths in the mid-1990s have now been eliminated in the early years, according to two reports published this week.
Standards of attainment in early maths are very good in 40 per cent of schools and good in the remainder, while the standard of teaching is either good or very good, said Mike Gibson, author of a focused report on early intervention projects in 24 schools across 17 authorities.
Anne Craw HMI and author of Standards and Quality in primary schools: mathematics 1998-2001, said significantly more pupils were achieving level A by the end of P2, a year ahead of the 5-14 guidelines. The Assessment of Achievement report later this year will record the extent of the progress but standards of attainment were "good" in P1-P4.
"We have got the green shoots, now we have got to nurture those," Mrs Craw said. Her report is based on 3,000 lessons in P1-P7.
Graham Donaldson, deputy senior chief inspector, said: "We are now seeing a different style of teaching. The nature of the teaching is much more dynamic, much more active and focused on the needs of individual children and less reliant on simply working through a scheme of one kind or another."
Mrs Craw said teachers were now encouraging pupils to work out calculations in their heads and talk through their answers. There was more interaction in the classroom.
ut problem-solving was a key area which could be improved. "Pupils have to be able to solve realistic problems, such as how many 35-seater buses would be needed to take 150 pupils on a school trip," she said.
Overall, the major maths concern remains in upper primary where staff are being encouraged to learn the lessons from the early years. Inspectors say teachers have to up the pace of lessons, raise the level of challenge and ensure all children are achieving as much as they can by P7.
Inspectors were quick to single out the initiatives in early years that have made a difference, including the revised HMI guidance on maths in 1997, the pound;60 million early intervention scheme, the presence of classroom assistants and the development of target-setting. It was difficult to isolate factors, Dr Gibson said.
Leader, page 20
CHECKLIST FOR THE IMPROVING SCHOOL
* Well balanced programmes covering the aspects of maths - information handling; number, money and measurement; shape, position and movement; problem-solving and enquiry.
* Regular emphasis on oral and mental mathematics.
* Good standards of attainment at P1 to P4.
* Well motivated pupils in almost all classes.
* Good direct teaching, with increasing evidence of interactive approaches.
* Very good resources.
* Plans for improvement.
* Problem-solving and enquiry programmes.
* Pupils' ability to solve problems and to report their findings.
* The pace of pupils' progress from P4 to P7.
* The level of challenge for higher attaining pupils.
* The opportunities for pupils to use ICT in maths.
* The use of assessment information to plan pupils' next steps.