Strategy subtracts lesson variety

23rd May 2003 at 01:00
SO, the numeracy strategy has not led to improvement in maths. I do not think we should be surprised or consider that the strategy is therefore a failure (TES, May 9).

It is, in fact, mainly what was being taught before with an increased emphasis on oral work and on a few different methods of computation (a mixture of good, bad and indifferent).

Children have always learnt sums and tables, have always measured and weighed, so we are not doing anything new. We should take heart that results are appropriate in most cases. It is just a shame that so much money has been spent unnecessarily.

I feel, however, that the numeracy strategy has just two problems. The first is its emphasis on a constant lesson pattern: mentalwhole class groupsplenary. This has several repercussions. The biggest fault is that it gives children so little time to actually work themselves. They do not do enough; do not have the chance to really extend their learning. Pupils sometimes need lessons that are dedicated to thinking for themselves, going further, practising and being independent.

I know it will lead to instant dismissal - I am hoping that no one in my own authority or the Department for Education and Skills reads this letter - when I say that sometimes I have no plenary session in my lessons.

This is either because I want the children to remain absorbed (or at least concentrating) as long as possible or we are still in the middle of a subject so a plenary is not appropriate.

The strategy also does not allow time for consolidation and for internalisation. Prime examples are where the Qualfications and Curriculum Authority units suggest that children in term 1 of Year 5 spend one day on percentages, just finding out that it means part of hundred. Pointless unless it is followed up. On the other hand, after just one lesson, children are expected to learn how to express quotients as fractions or decimals. I wish I could absorb ideas that fast!

The second problem is that it seems that almost all schools have renamed mathematics as numeracy. Why? I really hope that with the promised creative approaches now being apparently promulgated, teachers will begin to feel free to vary their maths lessons, give children time and call the subject maths!

Jenny Smith

Headteacher Elvington CE primary school Dauby Lane, York

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