Mathematics Teaching

Oral Answers to Questions — Education and Skills – in the House of Commons at 11:30 am on 24th March 2005.

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Photo of Nick Gibb Nick Gibb Conservative, Bognor Regis and Littlehampton 11:30 am, 24th March 2005

If she will make a statement on the teaching of mathematics in primary and secondary schools.

Photo of Derek Twigg Derek Twigg Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department for Education and Skills) (Schools)

Her Majesty's chief inspector's latest annual report shows that the quality of mathematics teaching and learning is good or better in about seven in 10 primary schools; about seven in 10 schools at key stage 3; just under two thirds at key stage 4; and about eight in 10 school sixth forms. Relative to other subjects, mathematics is above average at most key stages.

Photo of Nick Gibb Nick Gibb Conservative, Bognor Regis and Littlehampton

A quarter of 11-year-olds are still not reaching level 4 in maths, and Britain is a poor 18th out of 41 countries in the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, according to the latest study under the programme for international student assessment, which focused on maths. Does the Minister agree that every child should be taught multiplication tables by rote and be able to respond effortlessly to every multiplication table question up to the 12 times table, so that if I were to ask him what seven sixes are, he would effortlessly know that the answer is 42?

Photo of Derek Twigg Derek Twigg Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department for Education and Skills) (Schools)

The answer is yes. Ofsted's latest mathematics subject report says that the teaching and learning of mathematics continues to be a strength in primary schools.

Photo of Kelvin Hopkins Kelvin Hopkins Labour, Luton North

I congratulate the Government on what they are doing in primary education—taking mathematics teaching seriously after decades of neglect—and our children are definitely improving. However, are not different teaching methods still used in primary schools, some of which work better than others? Is it not time to be prescriptive about precisely how maths is taught in primary schools? Indeed, I find myself in agreement with Mr. Gibb on this subject. Is it not time to research precisely what works and to ensure that every school uses the best methods?

Photo of Derek Twigg Derek Twigg Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department for Education and Skills) (Schools)

Obviously, to an extent, we have to be prescriptive in terms of the numeracy hour, but I want to reiterate that we have seen a 12 percentage point rise in success rates since 1997, and that Ofsted says that the teaching and learning of mathematics continues to be a strength in our primary schools.