Andy Kemp

Response to the White Paper on the Tomlinson Report

By Andy | February 25, 2005 | 3 Comment

On Wednesday the 23rd of February the Government published the _White Paper_ repsonse to the *Tomlinson Report* in to changes in 14-19 education.

Details of the response can be found here

From the perspective of a Maths teacher this report is quite disappointing in many (but not all) respects, which we shall look at now:

* strengthen the emphasis on English and maths, in particular by expecting schools to focus systematically on those who arrive from primary school without having reached the expected standard in the Key Stage 2 literacy and numeracy tests, continue to publish national test results and introduce a new on-line test of ICT skills

This means that students who for whatever reason are not achieving in Mathematics and English, rather than being given a chance to succeed (and hence gain confidence)in other areas, will be made to spend more time studying subjects that are not achieving well in…

* we have already reduced the amount of prescription in the Key Stage 4 curriculum, providing more scope for schools to support catch-up in English and maths.

I have similar issues with this statement…

* we are extending the Key Stage 3 Strategy to improve classroom practice, so that it provides support across secondary schools

This one was fairly expected if a little frustrating. Those of you who know me will know that I have serious issues with the KS3 Strategy. Not in its content which in some places is quite good, but more importantly in how it has been administered. What was only ever intended to be advisory, was made virtually compulsory! And the prescriptive nature of the Strategy (which is can be useful for non-specialist maths teachers, or under-confident teachers) has resulted in consistent but uninspiring teaching. The interesting experimental teaching techniques and schemes which were developed during the 80’s and 90’s, which involved students developing concepts themselves through open-ended tasks, have now nearly all gone by the wayside in favour of a much more prescriptive _Three Part-Lessons_ (which again was only ever meant to be a suggestion!! – even if it was “highly recommended” – and you are also reminded that you should “Use your professional judgement to determine the activities, timing and organisation of the beginning, middle and end of the lesson to suit its objectives.”) So now not only are going to have a this prescription thrust upon us at KS3 but now that joy will be extended to KS4… And how will the Government get people on board with the KS4 strategy? The same way they did with KS3, tell schools they can have more money if they do! And no more if they don’t…

* we will ensure that no-one can get a C or better in English and maths without mastering the functional elements. Where a teenager achieves the functional element only, we will recognise that separately.

So this means that potentially good Mathematicians who for whatever reason fail to gain mastery of the _functional elements_ of Mathematics will no longer be able to obtain a grade C, and therefore will not be able to study the subject at a higher level – Which is where the functional elements loose their significance!!

The second important question that needs to be asked is what is _functional mathematics_? Who is going to define what areas of mathematics are functional, and which are not? Is functional mathematics just Mental arithmetic? Is it written methods? Does it include using a calculator? If not why not? When you survey people who perform mathematical tasks in the workplace (which is what this is supposed to be preparing them for) they will nearly always use a calculator. So surely we should be teaching students to use them more effectively not focusing on teaching them how they might try and and calculate the sum in their heads…

I will continue to include further issues when I have more time!


23 August, 2005 Reply

OK, possibly wrong article to post comment against but Andy can always move it.

Radio 4 are having a 5 part series entitled "A Further Five Numbers" and hosted by Simon Singh of "book currently being read" fame on this website. There's a BBC article with the opening line: "Stash your calculator, limber up your brain - a new radio series sets out to show maths can be interesting, and prove that the number 1,729 is special." The full article is here

and the series homepage, including listen again facilities is at a Further Five Numbers

N.B. Haven't actually listened to it yet, so it could be bad, but given Singh's past stuff, I am hopeful.


23 August, 2005 Reply

Thanks Sam,
I had noticed that this was starting again.
If you do enjoy it try the Five Numbers and Another Five Numbers as well which I think are still available on the website.

Five Numbers


Another Five Numbers

13 September, 2005 Reply

Hey guys,
I think i caught an episode of this about the number 6. It was all about the Kevin Bacon game and how there's also a mathematicians' version of this game...any it was dead good..
glad to see Abigail continues to blossom..hope the new job's going well..

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