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Teaching Maths lessons in KS1/2

Discussion in 'Mathematics' started by Betamale, Feb 14, 2011.

  1. Do you feel there would be an increase in KS4/5 attainment, enjoyment and results if primary education was structured so that specific lessons were taught by subject specialist?
    class 1 have maths first lesson with Mr X in Room Y, then Enlgish 2nd with Mrs A in room B
    class 2 have maths second lesson with Mr X in Room Y after having English first
    class 3 have maths 4rd lesson with Mr X in Room Y after having science with Dr H in room K
    I appreciate its a topic raised in the past but I would like some views from both primary/secondary teachers on whether you believe it has a place or the holistic teaching approach is more beneficial to 'learning and development'[​IMG]

  2. anon2799

    anon2799 New commenter

    I've seen this done. In a school I worked in and they trialled it in my eldest's infants school.
    There were many issues which it raised.
    In the school where I worked there was a lot of " lost " time. Primary aged children don't cope particularly well with moving around. We also found that teachers felt that it absolved them of responsibility for pupil progress.
    We had lots of " well I don't know really, Mrs x teaches them that" comments when pupils weren't making progress in Numeracy, literacy and science ( the subjects we did it for).
    The less skilled teachers were ambivalent about it, the good teachers hated it because they couldn't make cross curricular links. They also felt that they didn't " know " their children. Which primary teachers really hate.
    This was the set up when I went to the school, I only ran it for a year, although they'd run it for 4. It was in an affluent area. Articulate bright children. Results improved when we stopped doing it, and the pupils and teachers seemed much more settled and stable.
    We dis have to do a lot of work to get teachers who hadn't taught maths for 4 years up to speed again.
    From a parents perspective, I hated it when my daughters infant school did it. She found it terribly unsettling, and she's a bright, well adjusted confident child. It seriously blighted her year when they did it ( they only did it for one year) and I know several
    children left the school because of it. We took a coupleof children at my school
    who had left because they hated it so much, including one child who had become school phobic after previously having excellent attendance.
    At infant level in particular children need to form a good relationship with their teacher. They're being taught formally at an age when many countries still have them
    in kindergarten. All the research indicates that attachment is crucial for good development at this age.
    The answer in my opinion is to have a maths and English specialist in ks1 and 2 overseeing the quality of the curriculum, teaching and learning. Also providing excellent cpd for all and providing time for all teachers to
    observe a specialist teaching.
  3. "All the research indicates that attachment is crucial for good development at this age."

    During a recent discussion amongst teachers, HT and an Ed psych this subject came up. I felt that a child of 9 who had a learning difficulty (assessed to be working at the lower end between 3 to 7 years) still needed this attachment but they all disagreed. What would be your opinion on this?
  4. anon2799

    anon2799 New commenter

    Without knowing the child or the situation it's difficult to comment.

    If the child is academically poor but emotionally mature then it isn't so much of an issue, although ideally I think children need this attachment up to y6, there is a reason why things change then!

    If the child has a delay academically and emotionally, that's a different matter.
  5. To turn it around Betamale, how about secondary teachers covering all the subjects, just like in primary? I've looked at exam papers from most subjects and have not been in the least bit concerned that my subject knowledge up to GCSE would be anything of an issue. Certainly in some of the arts/humanities subjects it's often quite difficult to distinguish between them and determine what subject is being taught.

    Something I have noticed in primaries is the issue of behaviour management. Having the same teacher all day every day certainly allows that teacher to really get to know their pupils and the pupils to get to know the teacher. I've sometimes seen behaviour managed in such a way as to not alter the behaviour of the pupil but to make them at least half biddable for the teacher. That's definitely not a criticism but it often stores up problems for later when that same pupil gets to secondary and is faced with potentially a dozen different teachers, all with slightly different expectations.

    It's an interesting question Betamale and I'm interested in the responses too.
  6. Curly girl
    Thanks for your posts. I get the overriding feeling that many of the issues you raise are valid yet some relate to what the teachers prefer. Change is hard for some but often change is good in the long run right? (question not statement)
    If kids dont want to move, move the teacher. I think we worry too much about being PC correct and 'SEAL' like issues.
    I think the idea of cross curricular teaching is one of the reasons for the erosion of our academic subjects (but thats a whole different issue)
    On behaviour...we have to deal with that at KS3/4...its just modifying to suit.
    I am happy to answer that although my response is quite complex:
    Scenario (1)
    Mainstream schools, kids are drilled at an early age to become fluent in numeracy and literacy but professional and subject specialists at KS1/2. When they go to KS3/4 then they are taught by 'generic teachers' who were well trained and good at their jobs.That would be my preference over the current system based on the awful standard of year 7 pupils coming through the system and anecdotal evidence.
    A two tier basics and perfromance secondary education would be in place where true specialists were deployed in our academic based schools.
    I would obviously like to see specialist in both sectors but feel that the solid fondations of learning, numeracy, literacy and life skills should be more structured where specialists teach kids or at least well trained individuals in front of a specifc maths class to keep fluffy/academic learning apart.
    Secondary schools who are not hitting 40% A star to Cs are (IMO) in need of teachers who can just teach rather than being subject specialists and if that meant having the specialists start kids education in KS1/2 then I think I would prefer that.
    I have kids in year 9 who will never learn maths. Should have they been 'drilled' at primary by a specialist? or should they stay with one teacher?
    I have an 8 year old family member who is at a private school and they are capable of holding their own on GCSE foundation paper. The lessons are structured into maths/english etc with different teachers and the holistic approach is not favoured. Granted its a private school but are we too worried about kids feelings rather than educating them? [​IMG]
    Im still open minded but I cant help thinking that perhaps some more rigidity is required?
    I started the thread after reading this
    Along with some of the posts made both in this and the teacher training forums
    For those who don't manage to scan the document, it basically goes through the maths skills of primary trainees which, IMO is scary at times.
    I am all open for any ideas. I dont work in the primary sector and dont claim to be an expert in the field. I am eager to get some idea as the UK is one country where this practice goes on
  7. anon2799

    anon2799 New commenter

    I don't think you can undersetimate the effects on very young children. My own daughter who was bright, confident and able hated this set up. We're talking about children actually becoming school phobic because of the lack of a stable relationship with a teacher ( who in early primary is effectively the main carer).
    Yes, teachers could move classes but it would not resolve the attachment issue.
    of course my evidence is anecdotal, but in
    my school results improved once we abandoned the idea.
    I'd be concerned that we may experience more widespread behavioural problems and school phobia at an earlier age as a result. Particularly for childre. On catchments like mine, where school provides the only stability in their otherwise chaotic lives.
    I've tried to improve core subject provision by having lead teachers in each key stage, educated to masters level in their subject. They're also lead teachers at county level. As a result we've moved from the bottom 5% of schools nationally to the top 2% in numeracy and top 10% in literacy. In one of the most deprived areas in the country.
  8. I can understand your personal situation.
    It could be argued that we can't understimate the standard of kids numeracy/literacy skills when they come out of KS2 (as recent studies/data suggests)
    Do we sacrafice one for the other? Would all suffer in a similar model?
    (all questions)
  9. Nazard

    Nazard New commenter

    At my son's school they have a single class teacher (he's in Y4). My son is confident and mature but he still has a story to tell us about his teacher several times each week, so she is obviously very important to him.
    He does, though, spend a significant amount of time doing PE with the specialist PE teacher (at least 5 hours each week, either during lessons, or at lunchtimes, or after school) and has not had a problem with working with her too. In the past he has had French from a specialist teacher for an hour or so each week. Presumably every primary class in England has to have at least two teachers involved because of PPA time.
    Would having the class teacher for everything else, but a specialist maths teacher have any benefits?
  10. With the current levels of numeracy and literacy I believe specific, structured academic lessons (English/Maths) should be done by specialists away from the more holistic learning of the primary school classroom where all pupils are taught by the same person.
    I appreciate people are taking their own circumstances and making reference to those (which have their worth) yet after reading the link I put up, seeing the current attainment in primary numeracy and literac and having to teach year 7s who have minimal skills I have to ask the question.
    My other observation over recent years in year 7s not being able to differentiate between behaviour on the PE field/Drama studio and that in an academic setting. Perhaps setting the clear boundaries early on may allow for an understanding of academic development.
    Im not sure...hence the thread
  11. I couldn't resist joining in this fascinating debate.
    Taken at its broadest level here are we really discussing that, at primary school, are we/should we be teaching the subject or the child?
    There are, as ever, implications to both models. There is no doubt that being a 'specialist' (through knowledge or experience - and usually a combination of both) can enhance learning and understanding of the subject. However, when you get to know a child really well, you should be able to enhance their learning in all 'subjects'. Similarly if you know a child/class well you can encourage them to aplly skills you know they have in other situations, thus developing and consolidating learning.
    At its most basic level, this debate is really about what primary education is all about.
    I think we all agree that maths and english should be the priority in primary schools. However I do believe that the best primary teachers are those that are good 'all rounders'. Understanding how children learn in the primary school is, I believe, as important as understanding what they have to learn. Being able to create learning situations that require children to use and apply skills you have been working on is essential.
    I firmly believe that, if children are taught maths well in the primary school, then they should have the basic maths skills that will see them through 'everyday' life. This should not be dependent on them being taught by a maths specialist but it does mean that they need good teachers with good understanding of maths and english and a good understanding how to get children to apply and develop those skills.
  12. anon2799

    anon2799 New commenter

    [​IMG] I agree fanofmaths.
    I think it's possible to develop teachers who are highly skilled in teaching literacy and numeracy to their class.
    It needs a lot of training and hard work
    I take the point about ppa cover and specialist teachers. In my own school we get around this by having a ppa teacher who covers all classes for 1 day every 2 weeks minimising the disruption to the children.
    The school which I worked in which did have specialist subject teachers was in a very affluent catchment. We still saw a marked rise in standards once we went back to one teacher one class.
    The school which I work in now has a very caring and nurturing ethos and the children really appreciate the relationships they have with staff. School is a safe place. It's possible to raise standards without having to use specialist teachers, we did.
  13. Fanofmaths
    Good post.
    The current model is meant to be the one you suggest but it seems to be 'failing' to equip pupils (thats a quote).
    Is it about looking at teacher training? is it a case of not expecting all primary teachers to be a jack of all trades? is it a case of getting all primary school teachers 'specialists' in 2-3 subjects and rotating kids based on strengths?
    Primary teacher training requires a C in maths and English GCSE right? Whilst I dont believe paper qualifications mean a lot in terms of someones ability to teach a subject, if someone has a C in maths and english and not touched it for 5 years and scraped through are they the people to be trained?
  14. I have not managed to read all of the posts and just caught a couple, but it has occurred to me that everyone is talking aboout rotating the children in primary ed. I wonder, has anyone tried rotating the teachers? Surely that would give pupils a little more stability than getting them to change classes. Also, how about team teaching with specialist teachers so that they still have their teacher, but this is supported in certain subjects.
    Not cost effective and would never happen i'm sure, but if we're talking about what is the absolute best for teaching children... ???
  15. Betamale.
    Very interesting post for me because I have just moved into this (ITT) sector.
    Agree. The GCSE (or indeed any other school qualification) is not a measure of someone's ability to teach that subject but we use it as a 'bottom line' because it is currently all we have. It is something very pertinent to me at the moment as I am certainly finding that the students' subject knowledge is a huge issue we have to deal with. I'm not sure what the answer is but I do feel our students almost need to 're-learn' primary maths in order to teach it effectively.
    Is it the model that is wrong? My view is that we seem to have lost direction about what primary school should be all about and try to cram too much 'other stuff' in. Yes we want pupils with good social skills, yes we want pupils who can understand citizenship issues etc etc but whenever there is some identified problem with 'the youth of today' it is always turned into some new initiative for schools (primary and secondary) to deal with, with never a thought to parental responsibility.
    You are probably right that we expect a primary teacher to be a 'Jack of all trades' when really my suggested model is that they should be highly skilled teachers who are experts in english and maths and know how to develop and apply these key skills through other areas.

  16. I think we are going to find common ground
    School IMO should be about MAINLY academic attainment. I believe that the wishy washy PC brigade who love 'holistic-SEAL-fluffy-edutainment' to control kids and not breach human rights.
    I 100% agree with a childs development beyond that of academic success but primary, and to some extent. secondary is just a playground in the UK to manage kids who cannot sit down and learn.
    I have 3 hours with my GCSE group and I am expected to constantly do cross curricular links to the point of where it may aswell not be a maths lesson.
    Perhaps a split day
    Morning, hardcore academic flogging in primary schools, clearly defined away from the usual setting with a competent semi-specialist (or better [​IMG]) teacher................ and then.
    Afternoon, all the sit on the carpet content that has been diluting academic learning.
    I have spent 4 days over the last 2 years with primary teachers and watching them. Some moments were great, many were 'hide behind the sofa' bad.
    I also feel the <u>SOME</u> ITT training providers drag the weak through and give too much support to people who would be better off in a career more suited to their skills
    IIRC China have specialists in place at this age. I shall see if I can dig out the paper I was reading on their system.
    read the document I linked, it may give some insight into what MAY (MAY, may) be one of the issues in the current decline in primary standards of maths and english (along with the issues raised above)
  17. anon2799

    anon2799 New commenter

    I agree and I stopped having students from one particular ITT provider because of this. I was not prepared to pass students whose own subject knowledge was not good enough to teach bright Y6 pupils. I did not expect to be receiving students on their final practice where this was the case.
    After much discussion with the ITT provider they suggested that the students might be better placed in early years (don't even get me started on why it's important to have good subject knowledge right from the start).
    I pointed out that regardless of whether they felt an Early years teacher did not need good subject knowledge, a headteacher might appoint a teacher to a post in EY or KS1 but then move the teacher into KS2 and, rightly, expect them to be able to cope.
    I'm really impressed with the calibre of the students we get from the local university. I've yet to meet a final year one I wouldn't be delighted to employ.
  18. pipipi

    pipipi New commenter

    Alongside this debate, I'll throw in my tuppence/twopenny (decimalisationMonday).
    It sometimes seems strange to me that at A level I might have a group of 6 kids who are very bright , keen and barely need pointing in the right direction. They are maths fluent.
    At the other end, I have 30 kids in Year 7 who aren't maths fluent.
    Wouldn't it be nice to reverse the situation? How about getting a lot more qualified teachers (and there's a big problem already) with classes of 8 maximum in year 7? I'm sure that would drive up standards.
    And I can remember discussing withdrawing lowability kids from their RE/Geog lessons so in Year 7 they would spend a lot of their time being drilled in English and Maths. That way they could properly access the other subjecs later on.
  19. I can but concur with pipipi. Far too many low attaining pupils spend far too much time on a wide variety of non-core subjects. It's very difficult in my school getting pupils withdrawn from other subjects, even when help such as the one to one tuition scheme is available.

    I think lots more qualified teachers is a pipe dream, experience of trying to recruit staff to a fair to middling comprehensive in a nice city has been a real trial for us.

  20. Do we fear rote learning because its not Ofsted fashionable or may lead to behaviour issues?
    I suppose all I ask is that every pupil (those without SEN/major learning difficulties) passed to KS3 can:
    • Recall times tables up to 10 (ideally 12) without tumbleweed moments
    • Divide in the same manner (albeit a touch slower)
    • Use all four operations
    • Use any form of written method to multiply and divide
    • Have some understanding of place value
    • Have an appreciation of negative numbers
    • Know very basic shape properties
    I know for sure only around 10% of KS3 pupils I teach can do this yet MANY came from KS2 with a level 5...whatever level 5 means.

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