Sonia Blandford – We Can Do Maths

Professor Sonia Blandford is the founder and CEO of Achievement for All, a charity working with thousands of schools in the UK to raise the educational attainment of pupils, and particularly those facing barriers to learning.

Writing for Schools Improvement, here Sonia talks about how maths is so very important.

Many people in this country are happy to say- ‘I could never do maths’- but would be ashamed to admit that they can’t read. We have seen a successful drive to improve reading standards, but maths still lags some way behind. One clear theme emerging from the recent study of good practice in early years and primary maths (FEA, 2017) is the centrality of positive attitudes and a can do mentality in driving improvement and enjoyment in maths; in many of the schools and settings it was purposefully identified as an area for change.

And why does it matter? Evidence shows that achieving Maths GCSE at grades A*-C provides a powerful base for success in life; other research indicates that by 10 years old children’s maths attainment can be an indicator of their future earnings; those who do well at maths at age 10 are more likely to have higher earnings in adulthood. Children begin school at the age of four or five with considerable differences in maths skills and understanding; some primary schools in some areas of England address this well. Children tend to perform better at maths in primary school than they do during their secondary education (DfE, 2016). Nonetheless, the gap in maths performance at age 11 between children from economically disadvantaged families and their more advantaged peers still exists and widens significantly during secondary school. In 2016, just over half of all children from economically disadvantaged families achieved the expected level in maths at age 11 (58%). This compared to their more advantaged peers where 76% achieved the expected level (DfE, 2016). This means that a significant proportion of children from economically disadvantaged families leave primary school without the basic maths skills to succeed at secondary school and beyond. It does not have to be like this.

The recent FEA (2017) maths report shows that primary schools and early years settings that are getting it right are delivering a high quality mathematics education irrespective of children’s social or economic background. With a whole school or setting approach to maths not only are children achieving and enjoying maths, but so are teachers and parents.

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