The Glass Ceiling II

One thing I didn’t mention in yesterday’s post was the quality of teaching in many schools. I mention this because of this article, published in response to a new report by a right wing think tank, Politeia

The interesting part of the article comes at the end, and says:

The Department for Children, Schools and Families was critical of the report and its findings.

“This report is simply nonsense masquerading as serious comment,” a spokesman said.

“Teaching is now the number one choice for graduates and the latest figures show that 95% of current primary school trainee teachers have a 2:2 degree or better.

“Every single teacher needs to have a degree for postgraduate teaching training course and at least two A-levels or equivalent to get on the well-respected three year education degree – as well as GCSEs in English, maths and science.”

You’ll notice that this little quote quite artfully fails to address the point made in the report. Yes, many primary teachers have GCSE maths. That neither means that they are comfortable with numeracy themselves, or with teaching it. Simply dismissing the conclusions as “nonsense masquerading as serious comment” is neither helpful or practical. In fact, it’s arrogant and insulting and possibly even just wrong.

Let’s take the DCSF’s response and analyse it:

  1. “95% of current primary school trainee teachers have a 2:2 degree or better”. Degrees in what? Given the imbalance in the number of women in science and technology subjects (including mathematics) and the also known imbalance in the ratio women to men applying for primary (and even secondary) teaching, this already makes the numbers of “numerate” graduates smaller for teaching posts.
  2.  

  3. “Every single teacher needs to have a degree for postgraduate teaching training course and at least two A-levels or equivalent to get on the well-respected three year education degree – as well as GCSEs in English, maths and science.” Fine. What this really means is that a newly qualified teacher at 22 being expected to teach 11-year-olds how to do maths may have a teaching degree (or PGCHE) in a degree with no significant numerate content, two A-Levels at grade E in non-maths or science subjects and a grade C obtained in GCSE in mathematics around six years previously. The numbers doing maths and science at both A level and degree level are currently not as high as they should be and, in some areas, are on a downward trend. 

    If undergraduates across the sector are in any way like the sample I am exposed to here, then the report has a serious and valid point. Levels of functional numeracy and mathematical proficiency are not good. And, I just wonder where the most proficient mathematically-minded graduates end up teaching.

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