Tuesday, 14 August 2007

Setting standards

Michael Gove, the shadow children's secretary, has just been on the radio repeating some fairly tired Tory theories about the problems with secondary school teaching. Gove contends that a 1% point fall in Maths at Key Stage 3 this year (after a 3% point rise last year, and a 16% point - equivalent to over 25% more pupils making the grade since his lot were in power) has two main reasons: a fall-off in standards after initial success in 1997-2000; and a failure to set in maths. Actually he is wrong on both counts. While it is true that KS2 results - tests at 11 - improved fastest in Labour's early years, improvements at KS3 - for 14 year-olds - have been fastest since 2001, partly because Labour introduced a KS3 strategy then. And while fewer than half of lessons are set, that is not the case in Mathematics, as John Dunford has pointed out, where more lessons - three-quarters - are set than in any other subject. The truth is that, as with KS2, there are plenty of schools that make the grade, and others with similar pupil profiles that don't. Only when the straggling schools make their targets and achievement as strong as the successes will we see the national improvements we need - and their pupils deserve. And for teaching the KS3 strategy - as opposed to GCSE or A level maths - this has nothing to do with whether or not the teachers are pure maths graduates.

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