With the changes initiated by Michael Gove due to filter through into the maths GCSE system in this country, the changes to teaching must be considered.
The changes due to take place are large, from September 2015, the maths curriculum is going to double in size with regards to size of course.
Even the most able students will find this larger course a challenge. There are obvious benefits to this approach; the course will more ably prepare students for the bigger and more diverse A-level approach to mathematics. From 2017, the sought-after A* grade in maths will be much more difficult to achieve and will e dependent upon the student’s ability to problem solve, reason and have a broad understanding of ranging mathematical topics.
At foundation tier changes to the curriculum will include introducing a series of topics from quadratic equations and trigonometry that are usually reserved for the higher tier students. The motivation behind is this move is to help students at every level understand fundamental mathematical principles.
Whilst well intentioned, the difficulties involved in teaching these challenging topics to all students are obvious. Some students approach their secondary school in year 7 unconfident in basic mathematics such as times tables and time telling. With ever-increasing class sizes and ability disparity among students, ensuring all students are up to scratch is likely to be an extremely daunting task for secondary teachers.
In order to achieve this higher understand and wider course, schools will need to increase the time they spend teaching maths. Given the differing ability levels and higher benchmark, there is clearly a need for a significant increase in contact time, and not just at GCSE. To master the underlying conceptual knowledge, more maths teaching time is also needed at key stage 3.
While there are some schools who have begun preparation– they have already implemented new schemes of work, accompanied by an increased number of maths lessons at both key stages 3 and 4. In many cases, time at key stage 4 has been found by reducing the number of GCSEs taken by the 2017 cohort showing a shift in terms of the value placed in mathematics. Indeed in some schools where key stage 3 maths teaching time has been increased, this may have been achieved by reducing lessons in subjects such as dance or drama.
Those schools that have yet to increase maths teaching time could face difficulties when the new GCSE exams are due to be sat. They may end up rushing through the syllabus or simply be unable to complete it. One of the biggest problems facing these schools is staffing.
This is very difficult for schools as an extra hour per week of mathematics could result in the need for an extra maths teacher. Currently around one in five schools has a vacancy in maths – and the recruitment crisis is worsening. So if schools are to succeed in achieving the new targets set for them, they will need to recruit teachers from an increasingly small pool of applicants.
The need to improve on UK student’s mathematical ability is not something that many can argue with, the UK consistently under-performs when compared with our Eastern counterparts. However, the means to make these improvements are more complicated and may not be achievable via schooling alone. The increase of tuition as a viable solution is becoming ever more apparent. If you are concerned about your child’s mathematical ability and chances of success when the new curriculum comes into play, get in touch.