Primary Mathematics

Oct 09, 2006

Miles Berry

Here’s my autumn term report to the IMA’s Schools and Further Education committee.

National Curriculum Test and Task Results

At key stage 1, results are obtained through teacher assessment, generally using materials provided by QCA. 90 % achieved the expected level 2 or better, 1% point down on the previous year. Only 21% achieved level 3, a drop of 2% points on the 2005 teacher assessment result, and thus 5% points down on 2004; at this level boys continue to outperform girls overall, and the 5% point gap remains unchanged.

At key stage 2, 76% are now achieving the expected level 4, 1% point up on 2005. 33% scored at level 5, 2% points more than the previous year, although the 5% point gap in favour of boys remains here too.

Primary National Strategy

The renewed framework for mathematics has not yet been published, although it is anticipated some time this month. The framework covers the whole of the primary phase from the beginning of state funded education. Its provisions will include increased expectations for calculation and recall of number facts, a higher profile for mental calculation and use and application of mathematics and clarification on progression in written calculation and the use of calculators. Core position papers on methods of written calculation, advocating “wider and more consistent use of what are commonly known as ‘standard’ written methods: compact, efficient methods that work for any calculations, including those involving decimals.” and the use of calculators have been published. There seems a perception that changes are unlikely to be very extensive, with some local authorities anticipating the delivery of training on the new framework this term and a move mid-year onto the new framework. It will be interesting to see whether changes lead to the publication of revised text book schemes.


The Advisory Committee on Mathematics Education have published theirreport on the continuing professional development of primary mathematics teachers. They outline a number of principles: the need for a larger pool of knowledgeable, excited and enthusiastic maths teachers, sound mathematical and pedagogic knowledge amongst the workforce and opportunities for teachers to develop this irrespective of school wide priorities, targeted CPD based on identified needs, and a supply of experts into non-classroom roles in LAs or HEIs. The CPD model envisaged focuses on the development of good mathematics teaching which can in turn inspire others, with the active involvement of teachers in high attaining schools and ASTs, and peer-reviewed research. The report makes a number of specific recommendations, many of which require action by the recently launchedNCETM.

Other work of interest

A recent research report from the DfES, Pupil Grouping Strategies and Practices at Key Stage 2 and 3: Case Studies of 24 Schools in England, suggests that mixed ability classes at Key Stage 2 produce better overall performance than ability based setting in mathematics at this level, and that in-class grouping is particularly effective. The National Strategies team have produced advice on implementing this report’s findings, suggesting that a “flexible and innovative approach to groupings” is best in order to raise standards for all pupils and across the curriculum, and that “teaching to the middle” should be avoided in mixed ability groups.

QCA are running a consultation exercise on the proposal to introduce P-scales as a means of monitoring the attainment of those working below level 1 of the National Curriculum.