Teacher talk

Joe Haywood is head of the maths department at Oxted School, one of the largest comprehensive schools in Surrey
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The Independent Online

Joe Haywood is head of the maths department at Oxted School, one of the largest comprehensive schools in Surrey

What do you think about the Government's plans to pay maths teachers more money?

I feel that the issue is not simply about money. The real problem is the shortage of people who decide to take mathematics at school and university.

Will recruitment to other subjects be affected?

I don't think so. I suspect that the only effect of these plans on other teachers will be a slight resentment.

Why do you think there is a shortage of maths teachers?

I think part of the problem is with the curriculum. Unfortunately, the academic system is very curriculum-based. First, the GCSE system does not prepare the most capable mathematicians for the A-level course. Second, students taking mathematics are beginning to realise that it is a tricky subject to take on at A-level. Therefore, many choose to do subjects that they imagine are easier, to get better results. The curriculum is extensive and has to be covered in a relatively short time. The Government will have to be brave, and will have to reconsider the AS/A2 system.

How can pupils be turned on to maths?

Possibly we need two different GCSE qualifications. One should be a more general purpose, numeracy-based qualification that gives mathematics a more utilitarian aspect. The other needs to be more difficult, specifically targeted at the upper third of the general ability range. It should get those people to see maths as the interesting academic subject that it is. Also, mathematics should not be compulsory beyond Key Stage 3. The tendency is to think about how useful maths is, but the potentially talented mathematicians should take a more logical approach. At Oxted, mathematics is a popular A-level option. We tailor our lessons carefully to suit our classes. We have, for example, two sets each year who sit GCSE mathematics a year early. In Year 11, they go on to study additional mathematics.

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