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Do schools have responsibility for teaching maths?

Discussion in 'Mathematics' started by Nazard, Dec 29, 2011.

  1. Nazard

    Nazard New commenter

    I didn't want to hijack other threads, so this one draws together thoughts from several recent postings.

    In the Displays thread:

    In the Reading material thread, Kate is about to start tutoring a G&T Yr 8 pupil.

    Alongside this, _schools_ in England are rated based on the percentage of pupils who gain 5A* to C grades including English and Maths, without any acknowledgement of how many of the pupils also receive out-of-school private tuition.

    So: I have been wondering whether we have moved away from the idea that maths teachers in school teach maths and that instead it involves out-of-hours tuition.

    Any thoughts? Is this a new phenomenon?
  2. trinity0097

    trinity0097 New commenter

    Extra Maths lessons can have a big benefit to certain types of pupil IMHO. In any class that I teach up to 20% may have extra Maths, either through our learning support dept or out of school.
    I find it's the pupils who should be OK but are behind that have the cability to catch up that do well from it, they get the support that just isn't possible in a whole class situation. Also pupils who have issues fuguring out what exam questions want them to do, but otherwise are Ok can benefit from short-term tutoring. It helps pupils (often girls) whose confidence is low to get to a point where they feel positive about Maths and can get more out of a whole class situation. For SEN pupils it has some benefits, but will not often increase attainment hugely once they have reached a certain point.
  3. googolplex

    googolplex Occasional commenter

    A new phenomenon? Getting a tutor to gain an advantage is as old as the hills. Do schools have a responsibility to teach maths? Yes. If we don't take on such a responsibility what else are we being paid for?
  4. Agreed, and it was always a problem when schools allowed coursework to be taken home. It's difficult to make a level playing field for pupils but schools should try their best to do so. As an example, though I always feel it's a bit ridiculous that schools are more or less forced into putting on extra revision classes, I always hold 'breakfast club' revision sessions and do my best to get reluctant pupils to attend.
  5. September

    September New commenter

    I try to fight the system in order to improve the mathematics at my school but I always come up against barriers from the teachers and leadership. It is my responsibility but when the barriers are there it can be so disheartening. At my school the students really know the value of their mathematics even those that hate maths always tell others "you need your maths you know!" but other subjects are given precedent - the performing arts and science are the favoured subjects by my leadership.
    The fact that so many of us do extra revision sessions must mean there is something wrong. Nice to see that there are other "breakfast club" sessions. I run one every morning and school does not start until 8.30am but every day I have a group of students who arrive from 7.00am onwards. Some of them just want somewhere quiet to work and the rest work together tackling problems and disccusing mathematics. It is a joy to see.
    As a subject where is our "Maths voice" who is our "Maths leader"? ACME, NCETM, ATM, MA, IMA all do good things but I feel that we are not being heard.
    Well done for starting this thread.
  6. You can't prioritise everything. If you're a drama specialist college, then maths is not a speciality.

  7. googolplex

    googolplex Occasional commenter

    When I was appointed head of maths, several years ago, I'd previously been on the SLT elsewhere so I've seen both sides of this sort of argument. My view is that the head appointed me to be the defender and promoter of all things mathematical at my place. I wouldn't expect complete support on all things - you'd have to be a swashbuckler of a headteacher if you were able to keep everyone happy all of the time - but I would expect the head to take seriously any issues I raised. In a way, I rather prefer it, at my place, that none of the SLT are mathematicians; in that way, I have more autonomy over the way mathematics develops. That's what we should be doing - defending and promoting mathematics. If we don't, who else will?
  8. Not really. If you're head of maths then your job is to organise the teaching of maths at the school.
    If it's decided to deprive you of a teacher, or to reduce the number of hours timetabled for maths, then that reflects other pressures and priorities elsewhere in the school. Whilst you must make the head and governors aware of the likely consequences for mathematics, you don't have to take a position on the decision itself.

  9. googolplex

    googolplex Occasional commenter

    Well then, that's just going to be an area on which we'll have to differ. I have a 'position' on anything to do with maths at my place, and I consider it my job to promote that position at the highest level. I wouldn't want to be working for a Head of Maths who showed ambivalence in any area which affected maths education.
  10. but specialist status is b*LL*cks isn't it?
  11. It was one of those ideas which works in the small, but not when you start applying it to every school.
    Most children aren't particularly good at or enthusiastic about any academic subject, but there'll be some subjects they don't actively dislike, and some they're better at than others. But basically they need an all-round, solid, general education, with maths, science, English, history, RE and a language. If they don't really see the point in To Kill a Mockingbird, then at least they've found that out, and they know not to do English literature for A-level. Meanwhile, they get introduced to some serious writing, they know that novels aren't just spy stories for boys and romances for girls.
    For these children, specialist status is pretty pointless. The school might specialise in drama, but they're not really fussed about Shakespeare, and they've got enough sense to know that they're not going to star in the next soap opera.
    However there is a minority of children who are very skewed. They might be extremely good a science, not good at all at arts. For these children, a specialist school does make sense. Having a specialism can give a school an identity, but only if it's really a centre of excellence. The problem is that children who are good at maths tend to be good at English, and also tend to be the better football players. So it's not easy to be a centre of excellence at science, but not at English - that is, be a specialist school rather than just a selective school. But a few schools can manage it, and it isn't a bad thing in itself.

  12. Specialist status was just another thing that tied up ridiculous amounts of money in administration that it would have been far better to simply give to schools rather than making them jump through hoops. On the plus side for some, it provided employment in school managements putting together specialist status bids and to others to evaluate those bids. Total waste of money.

    In addition, the notion that pupils gifted in a particular subject would go to the specialist school for that area was something that rarely, if ever, took place.
  13. Piranha

    Piranha Star commenter

    I agree that it was never likely that students would end up at the school with the right specialism for them. Given that most good schools are oversubscribed, choice is restricted anyway. However, there is a bit more to specialism than that. Part of the idea is that schools become centres of excellence in their areas, and share this with other schools and the wider community. My school specialises in Engineering; we provide an experience for local primary school students that they would otherwise miss. Our local Sports specialist school provides facilities for the community including use of facilities and classes. My daughter is at a specialist Music school; the extra opportunbities she has had have helped her develop in confidence. I agree that some of this can happen without specialism, but I think it helps.
    Whether it was worth all the money is another question.
  14. I agree Piranah, the outreach work that specialist schools do in their subject areas was, perhaps, one of the most valuable aspects of the programme. My main point was the sheer amount of administration/management time that went into applying for/maintaining the status.
  15. The children make the school. If you're to be a centre of excellence in music, it's not enough to have a nice music room and teachers who play for the philharmonic. You've also got to have the best musicians. It's got to be the place where children who are good at music want to go.
    But who are the children who are good at music? Generally, it's the ones with pushy middle class mummies who force them to do piano and clarinet lessons. My friend had such a mummy, who made him practise his trumpet all day. He got his revenge. He's now a professional trumpeteer. However generally middle class musical mummies make sure that disaster doesn't happen. They want their children to be doctors and lawyers, not musicians, and these are the children who are also good at maths, science, English, debating, and the like.
    So you can't actually get the best musicians into the specialist music school. So it's not a centre of excellence for music.

  16. Chetham's.

    OK, it's not a specialist school in that sense...but actually a genuine specialist music school.
  17. Karvol

    Karvol Occasional commenter

    You are forgetting one very important point in all of this.
    Those so called pushy middle class mothers also know that their child has to stand out if they are going to get into the most competitive universities. They may not be in the least bit interested in their children continuing with music professionally, but they will make sure that their children continue with it until university selection is over. Any advantage is still an advantage.

  18. Yes, you can have a few.
    Whilst most middle class musical mummies don't want their children to actually like playing music enough to take it up as a career, there are a some exceptions. If the child is so good that he can become organ scholar at an Oxford college that might be OK, for example.
    Then not every good musician has a middle class musical mummy. Some children nag their parents into buying an electrical guitar and promise not to play it at more than one third volume.
    So a few specialist music schools will survive. But it's a difficult trick to pull off.

  19. Whoosh.

  20. googolplex

    googolplex Occasional commenter

    Oh dear. It's obviously my day for disagreeing with you... and I disagree with so much of this, it's difficult to know where to begin...
    So, let's keep it simple. The point of specialism was never about attracting the 'best' of whatever specialism it happened to be. Looking at it down the other end of the barrel, no-one suggested that a gifted sportsman would not thrive in a school which specialised in Maths. Anyhow, the idea that a specialist music school should end up as a competitor for the Purcell School is simply pie in the sky...
    The utter nonsense about middle class musicians not wanting their kids to be musicians - if this really is your experience, you must move in some strange circles - I can assure you, writing as a musician/mathematician, it isn't mine... However, it is fair to say that kids may tend to rebel against their parents - mine and my wife's classical musical background is galaxies apart from my son and his penchant for anything involving scandanavian heavy metal... doesn't mean to say he won't make it as a musician - and his school's specialism? - I seriously can't remember!
    In my view, Sara Siddons's post 12 has it right. Specialism was some fanciful beaurocrat's wet dream and, to us on the receiving end, was only ever about the money. Same is largely true with academy status.

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