Make maths a ‘national priority’ for Scotland’s schools

New report calls for improved maths teaching in schools. Picture: Ian Rutherford
New report calls for improved maths teaching in schools. Picture: Ian Rutherford
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Maths teaching should be made a national priority in Scotland’s schools and applicants to the profession should take an online numeracy test, according to a new report.

A one-year review of Making Maths Count, the Scottish Government initiative to interest pupils in maths and improve performance in national qualifications, acknowledges the “excitement” it created but also flags up concerns.

It highlights that Education Scotland only provides “generic” ideas for teaching maths and that there is only one specialist maths inspector in Scotland.

The report comes ahead of the return of Maths Week Scotland in September which last year included competitions, visits to universities to the wide range of uses for the subject and Christmas “homework” for pupils.

The report warns that despite plenty of good practice in schools and nurseries there are “gaps” in provision. It calls for a country-wide comprehensive assessment for Education Scotland to share examples of what works well.

It also says the agency should use attainment figures and inspection reports to improve practice in maths.

Recommendations also included applicants completing an online test in numeracy, and promoting career-long maths learning for staff.

Scotland is experiencing a crisis in recruiting maths teachers with concerns being raised about vacant posts remaining unfilled despite re-advertisements.

The importance of student teachers having maths skills became high-profile last May when teaching graduates told MSPs at a Holyrood education committee that a number of their colleagues lacked the ability to pass on basic maths skills to primary pupils.

The General Teaching Council for Scotland is reviewing entry requirements and is considering raising minimum entry qualifications for maths to Higher or equivalent - the same as English.

Seamus Searson, general secretary of the Scottish Secondary Teachers’ Association, said most teachers felt competent promoting literacy but not numeracy and maths.

“All teachers across the system need ‘upskilling’ in terms of maths. There can be a hesitation among teachers at primary and secondary schools because they are not quite sure about their own abilities in maths and what to do about it.

“Numeracy and mathematics are very different things. If you focus on numeracy in the first place, youngsters gain confidence in maths.”

A spokesman for Education Scotland said: “We are developing new ways of working as part of the wider package of reforms around Regional Improvement Collaboratives.

“We will work to ensure the right support is available to teachers and schools across the country in order to continue to improve learning and attainment in numeracy and mathematics.”