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Ofsted urged to start celebrating achievement

The report, from the Parliament Street think tank, argues that criticising failing schools seldom results in lasting improvements

Posted by Julian Owen | September 04, 2019 | People, policy, politics

Ofsted should stop criticising failing schools and instead focus on celebrating those most successfully closing the achievement gap in KS2 SATs and GCSEs, according to a new report from the Parliament Street think tank. 

The Maths Revolution: The Case for Traditional Arithmetic argues that damning Ofsted reports are often counterproductive and add to the workloads of overstretched teachers.

Written by Tom Burkard, visiting professor of education policy at the University of Derby, it also calls for extra funding for teachers to support the teaching of maths, and urges schools and the Department of Education (DfE) to open a dialogue for sharing best practice. 

If ministers and officials are to have any hope of closing the gap for disadvantaged pupils, maths teaching in England will need to improve dramatically

The key recommendations:

 - Ofsted should stop criticising failing schools - which seldom results in lasting improvements and adds substantially to teachers' workload - and start celebrating the schools that are most successful in closing the achievement gap in KS2 SATs and GCSEs. These schools should outline their progression and the pedagogies employed, and Ofsted should summarise and publish them

 - Pupils scoring <30 responses per minute on the times table check should repeat the test at least once a year until they achieve that standard

 - The Standards and Testing Agency should break down KS2 arithmetic SATs results to reveal which questions were answered correctly by each pupil. This information should be available to secondary schools for formative assessment and as a baseline measure for voluntary catch-up programmes. The results should also be available to parents

 - For the evaluation of progress on catch-up programmes, the arithmetic paper on each year's KS2 Maths SATs should be made available to secondary schools that would like to provide evidence of the effectiveness of their programme

 - Funding should be provided so that teachers from the schools that have proved most successful in closing the achievement gap can be paid to disseminate their strategies. This could take any number of forms, involving the maths hubs, researchED, inset, or publishing information on the DfE website. Contact with other schools should be a two-way street - even the best schools will benefit from feedback 

“Pupils are now expected to 'think like a mathematician' even if they can't solve simple arithmetic problems,” said Burkard. “Just as the synthetic phonics revolution was started over a generation ago by a few brave teachers who rejected the progressive whole language theory that was vigorously promoted in teacher training, we will never get methods that work in real, existing, classrooms unless working teachers are driving that change. If ministers and officials are to have any hope of closing the gap for disadvantaged pupils, maths teaching in England will need to improve dramatically.”

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