The panel comprised: Sir John Holman (Director of the National STEM Programme), Professor Celia Hoyles (Director, NCETM), Jack Jackson (Principal of Launceston College), Sophie Crump (a mathematics teacher from Burnham-on-Crouch Primary School) and Laurie Jacques (NCETM Director for Policy and Quality).
Questions were invited from the floor and questioners are anonymous here. The exchanges are not reproduced verbatim but give a flavour of the debate.
Question: Jack, supposing you were working in the West Midlands and ran such [CPD] programmes – how long do you think staff would stay?!
Answer: J.J. If you want to put children first you have to put teachers first, first. I’m happy to train to the highest quality, people I know will move on. We will benefit in that similarly trained good teachers will come to us.
Q: Projector bulbs, for example, are very expensive. ICT is fine, but funding can be an issue.
A: L.J. Using ICT is not just about IWBs. Funding is an issue but can be addressed through other approaches.
J.J. I don’t think CPD has to be expensive. Travel etc. for a member of staff to be out for a day can cost a lot but you can often do as much by not going out. The National Centre offer is an example of how it can be done less expensively. We are in more financially restricted times but the smart school will invest in CPD – it’s worth paying for good teachers.
Q: Let’s talk about leadership and management. Sophie [Crump], what support did you get from your school?
A: S.C The school funded my Masters degree and was very supportive and keen to know the results of my research. It’s given me the confidence to share good practice.
Q: Might it be a good idea to get maths teachers collaborating with design technology teachers in maths ICT, in order to move away from the silos we have currently?
A: C.H. There are a lot of barriers to understanding the design of technology. Teachers have to have the time to discuss together. They also need to discuss across other subjects too – geography and maths etc.
S.C. It is especially important to make those links in primary, and it’s easier because you teach everything!
J.J. Those silos do exist. The most interesting government initiatives in the last 20 years involved personal learning and thinking skills and this can be key to discovering commonality.
Q. I want to flag up an National Centre award for design and technology interaction with mathematics. I also want to ask, are there international models we should be importing into this country.
A: Bengt Johansson, Director of the National Centre of Mathematics Education in Norway, is invited to speak from the floor: We are a very small country and that makes some differences. In the last two or three years we have worked with headmasters to get a more systematic approach to CPD. We must have the support of headteachers and politicians so that opportunities can be exploited. We do have some similar problems to you in the UK though, and I am here as a spy!
C.H. I learn so much from talking to B. I think we should do this work with technology carefully and learn in a thoughtful way – we can learn from each other.
Q: What are the panel’s views on Masters-level CPD?
A: S.C. I found it really valuable to talk to other professionals from other schools and read around the subject too. It has been brilliant so far.
L.J. One of the barriers in the MTL is that it needs to be subject specific.
C.H. We fund a lot of high-quality research, and we might be able to accredit that work – through credit transfer.
Q: We still have an upward slope in terms of maths A-level and we don’t have all the historical data. How do we address this?
A: J.H. There is no limit to the number we need! I am in favour of everyone continuing with maths to some extent to 18/19. Our gains don’t look as good if you look across the whole cohort.
Q: There are some things that can go wrong with ICT. It can be abused. The reality needs some attention.
A: J.J. Yes, when I was recruiting recently, not one of the candidates referred to ICT as a way to enhance understanding – their view was superficial. Is this a training issue?
S.C. Many teachers don’t know what’s out there.
J.H. The National STEM Centre is launching an e-library next month.