Headline of the week: “Half of maths teachers inadequate”

Maybe the Association of Teachers of Mathematics should sue for hurt feelings.

The story here is that the UK’s schools regulator Ofsted has declared that almost half of England’s schools are failing to teach mathematics to a high enough standard. And it accuses maths teachers of putting too much emphasis on “teaching to the test”.

From what I know of the situation overall, together with personal experience of British secondary modern and supposedly “comprehensive” state schools in the 1970s, one could say that there have long been serious problems with maths teaching. For one thing there are few mathematics graduates who wish to teach a subject that society in general devalues, and most students find difficult.

As for teaching to the test, this is the norm right across the curriculum, and it’s grossly unfair to single out maths teachers for criticism. The obsession of politicians, school heads, students and parents alike is exam grades, and teachers who know what’s good for their careers will do exactly what they’re told and achieve the best possible grade distributions for their classes.

The positive aspects of the report (and the BBC News story does discuss these) will I fear be lost once the TV news bulletins later today take the Ofsted press release and focus on the inadequacy allegation. Maybe Ofsted feels that this is the only way to get the networks to bite.