Carol Vorderman's Maths Report

08 Aug 2011

 There's some good stuff in Carol Vorderman's report and I particularly like the idea of copying the English Language/English Literature idea in order to separate arithmetic and numeracy from more advanced mathematical concepts.

 It will be interesting to see whether the criticism of Key Stage 2 SATS will sound the death knell for these increasingly beleaguered and unloved tests. 

However we have been here before. Sir Mike Tomlinson warned years ago that GCSE maths and English failed to provide functional numeracy and literacy. The subsequent reforms for Diplomas, and the associated requirement that all pupils  needed to pass at Functional Skills to gain the Diploma, would have sorted out this problem. But the current government has allowed the Diplomas to wither on the vine.

Additionally the last Labour government abandoned its earlier pledge to require all students to achieve functional skills in maths and English to achieve a grade C at GCSE.  This was a missed opportunity.

The full Vorderman report is available here:

In his foreword, Education Secretary, Michale Gove, welcomes the report but does not comment specifically on the recommendation that maths SATs should be abolished.

Key recommendations

These include:

  • It is essential for us to consider all young people and much greater attention needs to be paid to those students (nearly half of each cohort) who currently are deemed to ‘fail’ mathematics at age 16. We believe that it is largely the system which fails those students. We must recognise that their requirements are different from those of the top 15% who currently go on to study mathematics to a more advanced level.
  • The mathematics subject knowledge of primary school teachers and new trainees urgently needs to be improved.
  • The Key Stage 2 National Test (SAT) in its current form should end. Research has suggested that most schools focus their mathematics education for a minimum of two terms on teaching to the test due to league table pressures: thus, SATs can actually depress mathematical standards.
  • We are advising a radical change in mathematics education from the age of 14 to 18 with two critical recommendations. The first involves fundamental changes to GCSE. The first recommendation is that the present GCSE Mathematics system should be replaced by one offering two GCSEs (as exists for English Language and English Literature) as soon as possible.The second is that there should be some form of compulsory mathematics education for all students to the age of 18.

The BBC news report on the story is here:

User Comments

Rebecca Hanson - 08 Aug 2011

Clear crititicms but shallow vision

The report contains some useful charts and insights into the current situation but the recommendations are thin.

The suggestion that we should have a double GCSE is well established but there is no explanation as to why they have moved away from the idea that there should be a GCSE which focuses on core maths skills and techniques (relatively language free and highly structured according to a core established curriculum) and a second which focuses on mathematical thinking skills and applications (the other three sections of the program of study).

Current levels of understanding of fractions and other core skills are correctly criticised but there are no insights into the possible solutions - see for example here:

Structures such as SATS are criticised but there is no insights into the way web technologies can now be used more effectively track, assess and QA 5-14 education through the low stakes, low cost, flexible and inclusive systems which Ofqual are now accrediting.

Jonathan Wells - 09 Aug 2011

Functional Skills IS the solution

Yes, had Functional Skills been provided as a hurdle to grade C GCSE it would have been better, but this initiative has certainly not failed. Confidence in Functional Skills is higher than ever, they are recognised as worthwhile (and hard to achieve) and they garner widespread support from everyone except those who have to teach them - mainly because you can't "drill" students into passing exams that are essentially problem solving open questions. I don't see how you can say Functional Skills are a failed initiative - what evidence is there?

Rebecca Hanson - 10 Aug 2011

11c Ofsted

point 11c Ofsted
so theory. The reality?
The credible and respected maths specialist school inspectors seem to have all retired or left Ofsted and the ones we are left with don't seem to have any experience in teaching in the ways recommended by reports such as this. They can't even credibly present the reports they themselves are supposed to have written.

@Jonathan Wells
Where's the bit on functional skills?

Jonathan Wells - 10 Aug 2011


the bit about Functional Skills was on Mikes twitter comment.

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