Right answers for maths?

2nd July 2004 at 01:00
Clarke announces more pay and better training for teachers. Warwick Mansell reports

Government plans to increase the pay of trainee and high-achieving maths teachers will benefit less than 2 per cent of current teachers, The TES has learned.

Ministers have announced a package of reforms in response to the Smith report, which in February highlighted the crisis facing the subject. These include a possible 25 per cent pay rise for some advanced skills teachers.

Professor Adrian Smith, principal of Queen Mary college, London, reported that the maths curriculum was failing and pointed to chronic teacher shortages and a lack of support for professional development.

Unveiling a 47-page response, Education Secretary Charles Clarke said that the minimum salary for maths ASTs is to rise from pound;30,501 to pound;40,000.

In addition, schools are to be allowed to pay maths ASTs more than the current limit of pound;50,000 a year. Both moves are subject to approval by the School Teachers' Review Body. No firm date has been set for them.

The report also announced a pound;1,000 increase in teacher-training bursaries for maths graduates to pound;7,000, and a rise in "golden hello" payments for postgraduate maths trainees from pound;4,000 to pound;5,000 from September 2005.

Mr Clarke billed the proposals as the biggest step yet towards differential salaries for subjects with recruitment difficulties.

The Teacher Training Agency welcomed the additional pay for trainees, which it said would help to address the recruitment shortages. It also said that all teachers had benefited from the salary increases in recent years.

However, the government report makes no recommendations on extra pay for qualified teachers who are not ASTs.

At present, there are only 400 maths ASTs. According to the most recent government figures, from 1996, this equates to 1.3 per cent of the profession.

Professor John Howson, a leading recruitment expert and adviser to the Liberal Democrats, said: "As far as qualified maths teachers are concerned, extra pay for ASTs is tinkering around the edges of the problem."

Professor Smith's report said that maths teachers should qualify for extra pay in return for completing professional development.

The government response does not specify this but may leave the possibility open.

Proposals for improved access to professional development for all teachers are due to be published next week.

Mr Clarke's response received a mixed reception from teacher unions. On the question of extra pay for trainees, Mary Bousted, general secretary of the Association of Teachers and Lecturers, said: "We are very doubtful that a pound;1,000 premium will have a significant impact on enticing maths graduates into the profession."

The two largest unions and the Secondary Heads Association argued that maths should not be singled out for special treatment, although the National Association of Head Teachers was supportive.

Chris Keates, acting general secretary of the National Association of Schoolmasters Union of Women Teachers, said the plans could divide staffrooms.

The response has been praised by headteachers for its acceptance of the seriousness of the situation facing maths.

Professor Smith said he was "very pleased" with the Government's proposals , and the Maths Association was also supportive.

Unveiling his response Mr Clarke said: "We embrace Professor Smith's recommendations wholeheartedly".

He also announced plans to:

* pilot a new "extension" maths curriculum to stretch the brightest secondary pupils from 2005.

* replace the current three-tier system with a two-tier maths GCSE exam, subject to trialling, by 2008.

* establish a network of 1,500 to 2,000 primary maths centres to improve teaching for under-12s.

* establish a national centre for excellence in maths teaching.

* set up centres to run online further maths A-level courses across England.

The paper offered no direct reaction to Professor Smith's call for pupils to be able to gain two GCSEs in maths, reflecting the time spent on the subject.

Mr Clarke revealed that on becoming a junior education minister in 1998, he had asked who had responsibility for maths within the then Department for Education and Employment. In response, a dozen civil servants had come forward.

Accordingly, he is to appoint a "maths tsar" to take overall responsibility for the subject within his department.

Possible candidates for the pound;80,000-a-year post include Professor David Burghes, director of Exeter university's centre for innovation in maths teaching, his colleague David Reynolds, professor of education at Exeter and former chairman of the numeracy task force, and Graham Last, a Department for Education and Skills adviser on personalised learning.

Leader 22


* Smith recommendation: Extra pay for maths teachers, linked to professional development.

Government's response: extra pound;2,000 for postgraduate trainees, minimum pay for maths advanced skills teachers to rise from pound;30,501 to pound;40,000, no limit on pay for maths ASTs.

* Smith: two-tier GCSE as soon as possible.

Government: To be introduced nationally, subject to piloting, from 2006.

* Smith: review of the place of data-handling in maths GCSE.

Government: Qualifications and Curriculum Authority to review.

* Smith: develop an extension curriculum for bright key stage 3 and 4 maths pupils.

Government: pilot from January 2005; possible launch September 2006.

* Smith: new chief maths adviser post to be created at the DfES.

Government: pound;80,000 post advertised.

* Smith: maths university students to be paid to help out in schools.

Government: number of unpaid under- and postgraduates on student associate schemes to double to 10,000 by 2005.

* Smith: government to carry out survey of number of maths teachers and vacancies.

Government: new school workforce database to provide information on all subject teaching within two years.

* Smith: new national centre for excellence in maths teaching.

Government: bids to run centre from March 2005.

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