'Teachers lack maths know-how'

30th May 2008 at 01:00
Professor bets think tank pound;100 that fewer than one in 10 teachers have maths A-level
Professor bets think tank pound;100 that fewer than one in 10 teachers have maths A-level

Most primary teachers do not have the qualifications necessary to teach maths and science properly, a leading academic believes.

Bob Moon, professor of education at the Open University, thinks his research into primary teachers' qualifications will show less than one in 10 had maths or science A-levels. He will not complete his study until later this year, but bases his prediction on conversations with heads, teachers and those running teacher training courses.

He told a conference organised by Politeia, the right-leaning think tank, that he was willing to bet pound;100 his "hunch" was correct.

"Recruitment is hugely skewed towards social sciences and humanities graduates," he said. "That is a problem because science and maths, particularly in the upper age range of primary schools, need really good subject teaching.

"Subject knowledge isn't everything, but if you are not sure about what you are teaching you are likely to close down the quality of classroom debate and discussion."

The Association of Teachers of Mathematics, and the Mathematical Association, argued last week that primary teachers needed better training in maths and criticised initial teacher training providers, saying courses needed to be longer, with more time spent in schools.

Earlier this year, the Government-commissioned Williams review into primary maths teaching reported that only 2 to 4 per cent of postgraduate primary trainee teachers had a degree in science, technology, engineering, or maths.

It noted that the trend was downwards, and commented: "Of all subjects, mathematics is perhaps the most demanding in terms of its need for in-depth subject knowledge, even at primary level."

Professor Moon's research for Politeia last year showed that only 65 per cent of those beginning primary teaching had two or more A-levels and only 45 per cent of those gained A-C passes.

He said there was no official data on what subject A-levels they had because the Government, the General Teaching Council for England, and the Training and Development Agency for Schools, "had not got their act together".

And there was a wider data shortage problem, with no information collected on what happened to teachers a year after they finished their training, a point also noted by the Williams review.

"We need to find out what attracts people back into teaching but so much information on this is not collected and just disappears into the ether," Professor Moon said.

A spokesman for the Department for Children, Schools and Families said: "These sorts of comments are insulting to primary school teachers who, according to Ofsted, are part of the best trained generation of teachers ever.

"Their talents are underlined by consistently improving key stage 2 results in maths and science, as well as English."

Higher aspirations, page 28.

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