The nous to spot true standards

23rd May 2003 at 01:00
YOUR leader and the associated article asks "What's gone wrong?" with the numeracy strategy. You report that the strategy had been welcomed by teachers and "seemed to be raising standards" but was found to have made little difference to pupils' mathematical attainment.

Maybe it is my devoted adherence to the National Obvious Understanding Strategy (NOUS) which helps, but if we use the word "standards" only to mean national tests scores, "standards" will rise when a vehicle for training children to succeed in those tests is implemented in all schools.

Unfortunately, this simplistic use of the word "standards" is one which the media seems unable to grasp - and therefore to press ministers on.

The findings of the King's College study are yet another example of the need to see education in a more sophisticated light than the quick fixes governments allow, a clear challenge to NOUSers.

However, I can understand enough to know that learning is a complicated business, far more complicated than simply asking teachers to act in new ways such as "whole-class teaching".

The researchers believe that the strategy has tremendous potential for helping teachers to develop children's thinking, but until Sats allow teachers and children to widen the meaning of standards beyond the current narrow definition we will continue to see little change in attainment as judged by more sophisticated measures.

Nick Pratt

Senior lecturer maths education Rolle school of education University of Plymouth Douglas Avenue Exmouth, Devon

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