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Teaching unions respond to calls for improvement in maths skills

Acting director Dr Christopher Howard accuses the Welsh Government of trying to "shift the blame" for poor performance onto schools.

Welsh Government has known that mathematical skills were comparatively poor for many years. It is pretty rich for Mr Lewis to demand urgency now from schools when the government dilly dallied for years.

The Welsh Government has paid little or no regard to the need to recruit high quality graduates or the need to include a stronger focus on mathematics in initial teacher training for primary trainees.

– Dr Christopher Howard, NAHT Cymru

NUT Cymru says schools "have been inundated with policy changes by the Welsh Government" in recent years.

You cannot expect new initiatives to be introduced effectively unless there is high quality and properly resourced training and professional development to accompany it.

That is something the Welsh Government, local authorities and regional consortia will no doubt wish to reflect upon.

– Owen Hathway, NUT Cymru

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Education Minister: Schools need to act on numeracy

Education Minister Huw Lewis has demanded that schools here show greater urgency to improve standards of numeracy, in line with Welsh Government agenda.

The Welsh Government introduced the National Literacy and Numeracy Framework in 2012, which is designed to get both key areas being taught in other subjects, across the curriculum.

Annual numeracy tests for pupils aged 7 to 14 began in May 2013.

Estyn praised the initiatives, for raising expectations, and says time spent training has increased.

However, the education watchdog says numeracy is still not seen as a priority in a minority of schools - and only half have developed appropriate plans for improving pupils’ numeracy skills across the curriculum.

Huw Lewis said: "we do need to make sure every school pays much more than lip service to these initiatives."

The Education Minister has announced a new national conference for heads of maths at Welsh schools, on 28 January next year, to share best practice and hear from international experts.

Key findings from Estyn report on numeracy standards

Pupils' skills:

  • The majority of pupils in the survey have an appropriate understanding of times-tables, the four rules of number, place value and fractions
  • However, pupils’ numerical reasoning skills are not strong enough
  • Too many pupils lack confidence with division and percentages, impeding their ability to interpret results and solve problems

Schools' provision:

  • Only around half of schools have developed suitable provision for numeracy, although this is an increase on previously
  • Numeracy is still not a high priority in a minority of the schools inspected
  • Teachers often lack sufficient mathematical subject knowledge to plan and deliver effective lessons
  • In a majority of schools visited, teachers are uncertain of what the term ‘numerical reasoning’ means and how it translates into classroom activities
  • In around half of schools planning is still too superficial and does not raise standards
  • The quality of marking numeracy work is not good enough - and the monitoring of numeracy skills remains underdeveloped

Numeracy skills 'weak' in over half of Welsh schools

Pupils' numeracy skills are still weak in more than half of primary and secondary schools in Wales inspected by Estyn in the last year.

The education watchdog has released the second in a series of three reports on key mathematics skills among 7 to 14-year-old children, and the quality of their teaching.

The education watchdog has criticised the standards of numeracy teaching in Wales. Credit: PA

Estyn has found some pupils struggling with skills like division and percentages - as only around half of schools have suitable provision for numeracy.

The Welsh Government has made it a priority in recent years - with annual testing and the National Literacy and Numeracy Framework designed to get key maths skills into other lessons across the curriculum.

It is pleasing to note the progress made by around half of the schools we inspected. However, it is important to emphasise that there is still a long way to go before schools make a full and consistent impact on improving the standards of pupils' numeracy skills.

There are still too many pupils who lack confidence in key aspects of mathematics, such as division and working with percentages.

Staff need more support to widen their knowledge and understanding of strategies to help pupils to use numeracy across the curriculum.

– Ann Keane, Chief Inspector, Estyn

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  1. Megan Boot

Changes to secondary school qualifications in 2015

Significant changes in secondary school education are due to come into force in Wales next September.

New GCSES are being introduced and the Welsh Baccalaureate is to be made more rigorous.

But there are concerns that Wales going its own way will isolate students wishing to work or study over the border once they have the qualifications - though the Education Minister says that's something that won't happen.

New e-safety resources launched for Welsh schools

The resources hope to improve the safety of students on the internet Credit: PA / Arne Dedert

Schools in Wales are to receive two new resources aimed at encouraging safe and responsible internet use for pupils.

The resources, which have been created based on others in use across the UK and globally, will be formally launched later by the Minister for Education and Skills, Huw Lewis AM.

One is a self-assessment tool that allows schools to judge and improve their online safety, while the other is a resource pack for teachers, which aims to help them in teaching their pupils about the importance of responsible online use.

A screenshot of one of the resources - the 360 degree safe tool Credit: UK Safer Internet Centre

These two resources, uniquely produced for Wales, will be available to all schools across Wales to use and hope to help schools improve their e-safety, as well as developing digital literacy skills in their pupils.

There’s no doubt the internet and social technologies offer huge possibilities for learning and research, for communication and collaboration and for limitless creativity. That’s why we recently made a big investment in upgrading the broadband infrastructure for schools in every part of Wales.

Indeed, 86 per cent of schools are now receiving the desired connectivity at the agreed level or better.

However, we must also recognise that there are darker corners of the web which children and young people will encounter from time to time. _ _We’re committed to safeguarding all children and young people across Wales, and this is equally true in the online space.

– Huw Lewis AM, Education Minister
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