Wales behind UK in maths GCSE

Welsh pupils are behind their contemporaries from the rest of the UK at GCSE maths, according to a new report from the education watchdog Estyn.

Calls for 'urgent action' to improve maths standards

Education watchdogs have called for urgent action to improve the standards of maths being taught in schools across Wales. It follows a report showing that pupils here are falling well behind standards being set in England.

The report by Estyn calls for better teaching, assessments and staff training to catch up with standards in other parts of Britain. It highlight's much good practice but concludes there is "too little support for the professional development of teachers of mathematics." Alexandra Lodge reports.

Welsh Government should 'support schools in raising standards' says Estyn

In its report, school inspectorate Estyn makes recommendations for schools, local authorities and the Welsh Government to help improve math skills.

Among the recommendations for schools are:

  • making sure that pupils develop secure number, algebraic and problem-solving skills at key stage 3
  • improve the quality of teaching and learning in lessons making sure lessons are well structured, engaging and challenging
  • minimise early entry for GCSE in mathematics.

Local authorities and regional consortia should: provide support, advice and professional development opportunities for mathematics teachers.

Estyn recommends the Welsh Government should support schools and regional consortia in raising standards in mathematics for all pupils and review National Curriculum level descriptiors at key stage three with a view to 'raise levels of expectation'

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Welsh Govt: report shows success and need to improve

The Welsh Government says it welcomes Estyn's report - which "shows where we have been successful in developing mathematics in our schools at key stage 4, and where we need to sharpen our performance."

We have clear evidence that, at an operational level, the best results in mathematics teaching at key stage 4 are achieved where schools and regional consortia work together, and where teachers have opportunities to share best practice and benefit from appropriate professional development and regular network opportunities.

Where pupils are well supported, well motivated and apply themselves conscientiously to learning activities set by teachers who have high expectations and set appropriately challenging tasks, good practice will flourish.

The independent Review of Qualifications report addressed the issue of early entry. Whilst recognising that there can be some circumstances where early entry may be appropriate – for example to allow high achievers to begin Advanced level courses earlier, the Review recommended that in general the practice should be discouraged as it “was likely to disadvantage most learners."

However, there will be no immediate changes to performance measures for Wales to address this issue - Welsh Government will consider the implications fully and will not make rushed changes.

– Welsh Government spokesperson

Wales behind rest of UK at GCSE maths

Wales' education watchdog has highlighted that pupils here are achieving lower grades than the rest of the UK in GCSE maths.

A report published today by Estyn shows the proportion of pupils in Wales getting grades higher than C, particularly grades A and B, is "markedly lower" than the proportion of pupils who achieve these grades in England and Northern Ireland.

Wales has also been behind Scotland, according to recent reports.

Estyn has focused on the struggles of Welsh pupils in maths at GCSE level. Credit: PA

Last year there was an 11 percentage point gap between England and Wales in terms of GCSE grades C and above.

In Wales, maths is behind the other core subjects - English, Welsh and science - at GCSE level, and progress to A Level standard is also weaker.

Estyn says too many pupils are being entered early for GCSE maths exams, stopping some achieving the grade they are capable of.

Its report makes a number of recommendations - for schools, local authorities and the Welsh Government.