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Primary schools urged to be flexible with their mathematics

7 February 2013

Primary schools urged to be flexible with their mathematics curriculum

About 50 percent of primary schools could make a considerable difference to their students’ mathematics learning if they adjusted their curriculum to better meet children’s needs, according to a new report released today by the Education Review Office (ERO).

These schools are viewed as being ‘partially effective’ by ERO in its report.

The report, Mathematics in Years 4 to 8: Developing a Responsive Curriculum, looks at what primary schools are doing to raise the mathematics achievement of students in years 4 to 8.

Its findings are based on reviews of 240 primary schools by ERO.

Dr Graham Stoop, Chief Executive and Chief Review Officer for ERO, says that the next crucial step for the ‘partially effective’ schools is to use their assessment information to design a mathematics curriculum that works for all students.

“By taking a more confident and integrated approach, this large group of schools could move to having highly effective curriculum review and design processes. This would make such a difference, particularly for students who are currently achieving below the National Standards.

“Schools have permission to be flexible and change their mathematics curriculum to respond to the specific needs of students, particularly those considered priority learners.”

He believes that if schools addressed the concerns raised in this new report it would bring about a lift in achievement for primary school students struggling with mathematics.

In the report ERO notes that “accelerating the progress of students working below or well below the mathematics standards was challenging for most schools.”

ERO also found that while most schools were very good at identifying students needing more help in mathematics, they continued using the same teaching strategies and programmes which they had tried before. Few schools had evidence that these approaches actually accelerated the progress of struggling students.

ERO’s report notes that in at least half of schools it was teacher aides who were working with these students achieving below the standards, instead of experienced teachers.

“These children require help to catch up with their peers and therefore need the best resources available,” says Dr Stoop.

He says schools have often already gathered the information about what their students need, but are not using this knowledge to employ different strategies.

The report is designed to help schools improve and outlines the features of schools that are effective with their mathematics programmes. It also makes several recommendations for schools and the Ministry of Education.

ENDS

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