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NCETM Conference Standing on the Shoulders of Giants: Discussion, The political impact of the White Paper on the teaching of mathematics in schools

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Created on 24 March 2011 by ncetm_administrator
Updated on 01 April 2011 by ncetm_administrator

NCETM Standing on the Shoulders of Giants Conference 2010 - Discussions on the White Paper - The Panel

Panel Debate - The potential impact of the White Paper on the teaching of mathematics in schools

Celia Hoyles (Chair)
Danuta Tomasz (Headteacher, Goole High School)
Linda Phillips (Head teacher, Falconbrook Primary School)
Steve Lomax (Mathematics senior Adviser, Gloucestershire Education Authority),
Jan Hillman (Assistant Head, Hampton Dene Primary School),

Each of the members of the panel began by giving their take on the White Paper, The Importance of Teaching, and their vision of future developments.

Jan Hillman emphasised the importance of teacher enquiry and fostering collaborative working amongst teachers. She described a collaborative working project that had started three years ago in her own school with 30 children and now involves a large number of schools, with over 2 000 children. Based on this experience, she supported the White Paper’s proposals to reduce bureaucracy and encourage schools to support each other. She stressed the importance of tools and support (such as learning journals and forums in which to share experiences). She remarked how the work of NCETM had influenced her work with colleagues both in her school and in the wide range of networks that she has set up. She stressed the importance of external expertise (including access to research findings) when working in a collaborative way and how important it is for teachers to publish their work and tell others what they have done and what they have learnt.

Danuta Tomasz welcomed the White Paper’s focus on teaching and its emphasis on STEM subjects and the intention to put teachers “back in charge”. She identified the challenge of achieving depth of achievement in mathematics (rather than being satisfied with a C grade). She highlighted the importance of schools working in partnership; the Goole’s Area Schools Partnership (GASP) tended to focus on gifted and talented students but ought to also work with the strugglers. Another key challenge is to “replace the fear with fun” and teachers in her school were working hard, through extra-curricular trips and linking subjects (e.g. linking maths with art and dance) to achieve this.. She agreed with the White Paper’s emphasis on the importance of the quality of the teachers, but noted that all teachers need support with challenging students.
Danuta remarked that “NCETM is a brilliant resource for teachers” and that she had been absolutely inspired by the workshops presented throughout the day.

Linda Phillips welcomed the approach outlined in the White Paper and began with a quote from paragraph 4.2 in the Curriculum section: “We propose to take a new approach to the curriculum, which affirms the importance of teaching and creates scope for teachers to inspire”. She welcomed the appreciation that you can’t have a ‘one size fits all’ model and the centrality of teachers and teaching. The mathematics curriculum in England is one of the biggest in Europe and, therefore, probably the world. This often results in going too fast through material and “rushing through work de-motivates pupils”. She found parts of the White Paper over-prescriptive, not allowing for the differing needs of children and of teachers. She welcomed the White Paper’s emphasis on the importance of teachers having strong subject knowledge. She noted that teachers also need in-depth understanding of learning and need different types of continuing professional development depending on their strengths, stage and context. She welcomed the White Paper’s acknowledgment of the need for a collaborative culture. She noted the need, too, for opportunities, time and space to instigate rich mathematical dialogue among teachers. She emphasised the importance of grasping the great opportunities offered by the White Paper.

Steve Lomax focused on the ‘core entitlement’ compared with the ‘school curriculum’ and how one must consider both what to teach and how to teach. He emphasised the importance of ‘future adapting’ the curriculum, as our students are likely to have a range of careers and needs very different to current ones. On assessment, he questioned if the linear system suits everyone and wondered whether we are testing fluency or understanding. He wondered, in the new structures, who would pull together and support the planning and learning together as a community. He stressed the importance of teachers adopting the eight principles for effective teaching from the Standards Unit’s Improving Learning in Mathematics. Finally he welcomed the White Paper, quoting the statement on page 45, “We will focus central government support on strategic curriculum subjects, especially maths and science.”

Questions from the floor included concern that, if league tables continue, schools will still be competing and their performance measured by examination results, which will mitigate against the collaboration and the wider White Paper aims. However, it was also noted that the White Paper offers many opportunities to teachers.



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