Primary maths teacher shortage will last 10 years

A government pledge to recruit 13,000 maths teachers for primary schools will not be met for another 10 years, MPs have warned.

A Public Accounts Committee study, published today, called on the Department for Children, Schools and Families (DCSF) to speed up the training and recruitment of maths teachers, after it was revealed that one in five pupils entering secondary education failed to grasp the subject at basic level.

The report revealed that more than 120,000 children started secondary school last year without a basic understanding of numeracy. It said that many primary school teachers had a lack of depth in subject knowledge, which meant they were unable to transfer a proper understanding to pupils.

Edward Leigh MP, chairman of the Committee of Public Accounts said: “The department’s 10-year programme to train 13,000 specialist maths teachers will not benefit some primary schools for another decade,” Leigh added. “That’s far too long; the department needs to look for ways to accelerate the programme.”

He said that while the DCFS’ national strategy has helped to improve primary mathematics teaching and learning, improvements in attainment had levelled off, despite the £2.3bn spent each year on teaching maths in primary schools.

He added: “It is disgraceful that over one-fifth of all primary school children reach the end of their primary education without a secure grasp of basic mathematical skills.”

But Christine Blower, general secretary of the National Union of Teachers, Europe’s largest teaching union said: “Edward Leigh has come to the conclusion that simply because 20% of pupils don’t reach the expected level at Key Stage 2 somehow they are failing.

“There are very many children who have made incredible progress form a low base due to the hard work and commitment of teachers. Children can develop at different stages and, while there is obviously never any room ever for complacency, the picture Edward Leigh paints does not accord with the general achievement of mathematics in primary schools”.

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