Schools: Ofsted Report

House of Lords written question – answered on 15th January 2014.

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Photo of Lord Quirk Lord Quirk Crossbench

To ask Her Majesty’s Government, with reference to the 2012–13 Ofsted Report on schools, what steps they are taking to ensure that schools address the criticism that in one third of the schools inspected “English and Mathematics are not taught well enough” (page 6).

Photo of Lord Nash Lord Nash The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Education

We are radically reforming the English and mathematics curriculum and qualifications, raising expectations so that they match the best worldwide and providing effective support to schools and teachers to improve their teaching.

In primary we have published a more rigorous curriculum with a greater level of demand. The new English national curriculum places a greater focus on grammar, spelling and punctuation, with a new test for 11 year olds. We have strengthened the requirements on learning to read through systematic synthetic phonics since evidence shows this works best, especially in children aged five to seven. Between September 2011 and October 2013, we offered match funding of up to £3,000 to all state primary schools with key stage 1 pupils, so that they can purchase high quality phonic products. £22.9 million in match funding has been claimed by 13,430 schools. We have also introduced a phonics screening check at age six so that teachers can intervene early to help children catch up. In mathematics, children will know their times tables by age nine and calculators will be removed from the test for 11 year olds to ensure that children get a rigorous grounding in mental and written arithmetic.

In secondary, mathematics GCSE will be more challenging for all, while stretching the most able, and there is a strengthened requirement in English GCSEs to use accurate spelling and punctuation. We expect schools will increase time spent teaching mathematics, bringing us in line with our international competitors. The recently announced Progress 8 measure gives double weighting to English and mathematics in performance tables for the first time. For Year 7 pupils who have not achieved level 4 at key stage 2 in reading and/or mathematics we have introduced a catch-up premium worth £500 per pupil and £54 million in 2012-13. This enables secondary schools to deliver additional support, such as individual tuition or intensive support in small groups, for those pupils that most need it.

We continue to fund the National Centre for Excellence in the Teaching of Mathematics (NCETM) and we recently announced £11 million over the next two years to create a network of “mathematics hubs”, led by teaching schools, which will drive up the quality of mathematics education from the early years to age 19.

We have increased investment in teacher training bursaries and scholarships for mathematics: mathematics graduates can now get up to £25,000, and there are no limits on the number of initial teacher training places in mathematics. Furthermore, subject knowledge enhancement courses give graduates and career changers the chance to develop the expert knowledge needed to teach mathematics.

We are also reforming post-16 education, including A Levels in English and mathematics, and have set out our ambition for the majority of young people in England to study mathematics at least to age 18 by 2020. Students who have not achieved at least a grade C at GCSE in mathematics and/or English are now required to continue to study the subject. In addition, new Core Mathematics qualifications are being developed for those students with GCSE grade C or above who do not go on to study A or AS level mathematics.

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