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The government has announced the 32 schools which will act as England's new 'maths hubs' – responsible for ensuring students here reach the same level in the subject as their far Eastern peers.
The "hub" schools will host Chinese teachers, who will offer "masterclasses" to other schools in their local area. They will also share online lesson plans, teach their children maths everyday and encourage teachers to take part in research projects.
The £11 million programme is being developed with academics from Shanghai Normal University and the UK’s National Centre for Excellence in the Teaching of Mathematics (NCETM).
It will include bringing 50 Chinese maths teachers to England and sending two maths teachers from each of the hubs to work in schools in China for at least a month, an initiative which was announced in March.
In the latest international comparison tests, Shanghai came top in maths while the UK was 26th. The UK’s performance has remained stable since 2006.
Education minister Elizabeth Truss said: “There is no reason why children in England cannot achieve the same standards as those in Japan, Singapore and China. We put in more resources in England than in these countries and we have the best generation of teachers ever. Yet our children are two to three years behind by the age of 15.”
Charlie Stripp, director of the NCETM, which will co-ordinate the hubs, said: “We know there are many examples of excellent mathematics education within the school and college system. The maths hubs programme offers a means of spreading that excellence more widely, sharing proven good practice and supporting innovation.”
But David Reynolds, professor of education at the University of Southampton and chair of the numeracy task force which oversaw the implementation of the National Numeracy Strategy, said that spreading good practice across schools risked emphasising existing differences.
He said: “You expect the schools already doing well to pick up useful things about the Chinese approach and you expect them to be able to reach a number of other schools, as they cascade the knowledge out.
"But the issue is that as the knowledge goes out to other schools it produces variation, because the schools are varied in their ability to pick up this knowledge.”
However, Paul Haigh, director of the Hallam Teaching School Alliance based at Notre Dame High School in Sheffield, which is one of the hubs, said: “Instead of thinking of a cascade as something which dilutes the message, our job is to distill key points and turn them into a training programme. Then we use our partners to train teachers up, so it is multiplying rather than diluting.”
The announcement comes as the Department for Education announced that 178 secondary schools and colleges have signed up to trial the new 'core maths' qualification this September. Core maths is aimed at 16 to 18 year old students who have grade C or above in GCSE mathematics but do not want to do a full A level.
The full list of lead maths hubs schools is:
'There is nothing fake about Shanghai’s success in maths’ 25 February 2014
Shanghai maths is the talk of UK teachers 12 March 2014