pound;8,000 carrot to tempt maths experts

20th June 2008 at 01:00
Williams Review: Ministers back plan that most primaries will have a specialist teacher trained during school holidays
Williams Review: Ministers back plan that most primaries will have a specialist teacher trained during school holidays

Primary teachers in England are to be given the chance to earn pound;8,000 extra over five years by training to become the expert on maths teaching in their school.

A teacher in each school will be able to apply to their head to go on a course which is likely to include five days' study during the summer holidays. They will undergo training during three annual summer schools and be paid pound;1,000 a time. At the end of this period, and having completed extra study in their spare time, they will be accredited as the school's specialist maths teacher. This will come with a one-off bonus of pound;2,500.

After a further two years of successful teaching, teachers will be able to gain a masters-level qualification, which will be rewarded with another pound;2,500.

The Government this week adopted the above proposal, along with all the others made by the year-long Williams Review, which has investigated ways to improve primary maths teaching.

Professor Adrian Smith, chairman of the Advisory Committee on Mathematics Education, a separate body, backed the report. "There is a real need for a larger pool of knowledgeable and enthusiastic teachers of the subject at this level, with the freedom to support the teaching of maths in their schools," he said.

The Williams Review estimated that there were already around 3,000 primary teachers with advanced maths qualifications. These will qualify immediately as specialists in maths, undergo one year's training and then qualify for the bonuses within four years.

The study estimated that a further 10,000 teachers will qualify as specialists within the next 10 years, at a total cost of pound;187 million. The training will begin in September next year. The review said it would not be practical to allow teachers time off lessons to train.

John Bangs, head of education at the National Union of Teachers, said: "The fact that it's taking place in school holidays is a classic sign that we don't have a professional-development strategy for teachers. It's a bolt-on, when it should be part of teachers' contracts."

Rob Eastaway, of the Maths Association, said that pound;8,000 should be a good incentive.

"But what everyone is hoping for is that there will be good primary teachers who are both knowledgeable and enthusiastic about maths, so I hope they're not driven purely by money," he said.

Sir Peter Williams, who chaired the advisory committee on maths before Professor Smith and then led the maths review, said primary teachers were a great "national resource", and that excellent teaching had been found in many schools, but more could be done.

His report said professional development for primary maths was "far from encouraging". For example, most schools were not involved in local networks with other schools to share good maths teaching.

And it recommended a national training programme to improve the knowledge of local authority consultants, many of whom had insufficient mathematical understanding.

Sir Peter had considered raising the minimum qualification for candidates entering primary teacher training to above GCSE maths grade C. But he said this was "reluctantly" rejected for fear of reducing the numbers applying.

The review backed the Government's new Every Child Counts scheme, which will support extra classes for pupils who fall behind in maths. But it said evidence on whether such interventions should be individual or involve working with pupils in small groups was inconclusive.

Teachers' views were mixed about the report's emphasis on catch-up classes. Greg Wallace, head of Woodberry Down Primary in Hackney, east London, said: "The review is all intervention, intervention, intervention. What would be a much better thing for the Government to be doing would be to change the core of what children do, rather than countering it with catch-up interventions."

Lord Adonis, the junior schools minister, told The TES that intervention did not negate the need to ensure all pupils were doing well.

What the review recommended

- Every primary to have a specialist maths teacher within 10 years, except some small schools, where they may be shared.

- Teachers to be paid pound;8,000 over five years to train through summer schools and part-time study.

- Support for catch-up intervention programmes in Year 2, but schools to decide if this is done individually or in small groups.

- Review of primary teaching frameworks to make them more user-friendly.

- Government to increase numbers of early years teachers who are graduates.

- More emphasis on time and volume in the early years curriculum.

- Primary national curriculum should be broadly unchanged. But the review wants more emphasis on oral and mental mathematics.

- The Government to produce guidance on how early years staff can encourage children to express mathematical ideas on paper.

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