NAHT comment on introduction of 32 maths hubs

NAHT comment on Department for Education announcement of a network of 32 maths hubs across England

Russell Hobby, general secretary of NAHTsaid:People often talk about how uncertain the future is in terms of skills and jobs. But one subject you can guarantee will be essential is mathematics. It is the ultimate transferable, vocational skill. 

“Teaching maths is demanding. It requires careful thought in ordering, pacing and the balance of concrete and abstract skills. It requires inspirational and talented teachers to make the subject come alive. Anything that can improve our teaching of maths is welcome. Particularly if it focuses on developing and equipping teachers. 

“However we must be careful about cherry picking ideas from other countries. We can learn a lot, but the East Asian approach to maths is part of a whole philosophy of education. We cannot just patch on the surface features and expect them to work as well.  

At the heart of their approach is a principle of whole class mastery. They move at a careful pace from concrete to abstract concepts and the whole class moves together. How far are ministers willing to abandon concepts of differentiation to achieve this? 

Mr Hobby added: “Will they also encourage the respect for teachers and education that characterises many of these countries? Will they follow a carefully planned, long term and consensual approach to change?

“Every approach to education comes with costs and risks. Are ministers prepared to pay the price these results require? We know that many who work and teach in China and Singapore are unhappy with their approach to creativity, for example.

“We can learn much from other countries and we should be ambitious but we must be careful to see what really happens, not what we hope to see.”