Review of the National Curriculum in England

From BBC:

instead of introducing changes for English, maths, science and PE in 2013, the revised curriculums for all subjects will be introduced in 2014.

However, by the time the revised national curriculum is in place in 2014, it will almost certainly only be compulsory for a minority of secondary schools, as academies have the right to “disapply” the curriculum.

At present, more than 40% of secondary schools are academies or in the process of converting – and academies, with flexibility over the curriculum, are set to become the majority in 2012.

Review of the National Curriculum in England. Summary report of the call for evidence

is published. This is its fragment related to Mathematics:

Key stakeholders that responded on mathematics included the Advisory Committee on Mathematics Education, London Mathematical Society, Mathematical Association, Association of Teachers of Mathematics, Mathematics in Education and Industry, Personal Finance Education Group, Royal Statistical Society and National Association of Mathematics Advisors.

The key findings from the evidence submitted included:

  • support for a key stage approach rather than year-on-year;
  • support for a slimmed down curriculum built upon around key components that enable pupils to develop a deep understanding of mathematical concepts;
  •  the importance of presenting content so that it captured key mathematical ideas and presented them in a way that showed connections that would aid understanding of the links between different aspects of mathematics;
  • the importance of including mathematical processes, such as reasoning and problem-solving, to support the use and application of mathematics;
  • the need for a greater focus on the importance of algebraic and arithmetic manipulation; and
  • support for reduced content in primary mathematics to create more time for the learning of key concepts to be consolidated before pupils entered secondary school.

Q10a What knowledge do you regard as essential to include in the Programme of Study for mathematics? Please also set out why this is essential and  at what age or key stage.

There were 1499 responses to this question.

The majority believed that application of the four operations, multiplication tables, place value, measures, data handling and geometry, were all essential, and must be taught in real and purposeful contexts so that children could see how and why they would use these skills throughout their lives.

876 respondents to this question (58%) said that basic number skills were key to everything in mathematics and the National Curriculum must ensure that pupils acquire a sound understanding of the fundamentals. They stressed that the basics of addition, subtraction, division, and multiplication were all essential.

733 (49%) believed that applying mathematics to real life situations was a useful way of engaging students in a subject that they may feel is dull or lacks relevance. They said that children needed to see how they could apply what they had learnt. Respondents mentioned the need for more emphasis on the practical mathematical skills that were used in everyday life such as functioning with money, time, measure, and problem solving. It was suggested that every child should leave school with basic competence in practical, everyday arithmetic so that they could, for example, verify their own bills and payslips.

291 (19%) said that pupils, particularly in Key Stages 1 and 2, must know basic geometry and be able to identify the names and properties of shapes.

261 (17%) were of the opinion that pupils should be able to interpret and display statistics and know how to record standard data.

257 (17%) thought that there should not be any significant changes to the current Programme of Study in mathematics.

234 (16%) said that multiplication tables were important and children should be expected to know them by the end of Year 6. They suggested that the lack of a secure knowledge of tables at Key Stage 1 and Key Stage 2 was a major concern for teachers at secondary level.

198 (13%) thought that quantities and measures were vital and should remain as per the current Programme of Study. Respondents said that pupils should be taught to measure length, area and weight.

Q10b Considering your response to the above, should the Programme of Study for mathematics be set out on a year-on-year basis or as it currently is, for each key stage?

There were 1988 responses to this question.

Number  Percentage
Key stages            1081       54%
Year-on-year          656        33%
Not sure                 251        13

The majority of respondents argued that the Programme of Study for mathematics should continue to be set out by key stage. They believed that a year-on-year curriculum would be overly prescriptive as teachers would have to refer to several years’ Programmes of Study in mixed ability classes, and this could lead to repetition.

Respondents who favoured a year-on-year approach said that this would help to build up a child’s knowledge over the year and prevent concepts from being introduced too early. They suggested that the end of a key stage was an arbitrary cut off point, based largely on historic factors. It was suggested that the National Curriculum should ensure that there was a progression in skills, and must not restrict teaching to a linear method, as this did not allow teachers to adjust the Programme of Study where necessary to provide creativity and variety in teaching.
Those respondents who were unsure mentioned that it would be beneficial if the Programmes of Study could be set out in a way that helped to demonstrate progression but without restricting it to year groups or key stages. They believed this would allow pupils to develop their mathematical understanding at their own pace within the limits of the general areas of learning.

238 (12%) said that pupils made progress at different rates and the key stage format enabled them to make quicker, slower or different progress than the expected rate. It was mentioned that the flexibility of key stages is helpful in that that they can be shortened or elongated for different groups of pupils when it is appropriate to do so.

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