Maths Memos

The implementation of the 2014 English National Curriculum



ACME members Sue Gifford and Jennie Pennant reflect on the mathematics curriculum landscape as discussed in ACME's 'Maths Snapshot', 'The maths curriculum'.

Talking to teachers, it is clear that classroom practice is highly influenced by high stakes assessment and inspections. A major concern with implementing the current National Curriculum is the dislocation between the highly laudable aims and the content, with the latter with few references to understanding and problem solving and reasoning. This concern has not been alleviated by the draft performance descriptors and sample tests. A round table of key stakeholders convened by ACME last year agreed that in order to achieve the new high outcomes in classrooms it is essential that national tests and inspections reflect curriculum aims and empower teachers to consolidate learners' understanding. The new curriculum recommends differentiation through problem solving which deepens understanding, rather than acceleration to the next level of content. However, for this to become a classroom reality, this approach needs support from inspections, assessment and professional development.

This approach requires not only assessment focused on problem solving and reasoning, but high-quality curriculum resources and professional development. What might these look like? A current debate is whether a national text book such as they have in Singapore would help teachers implement the curriculum. Is this the way forward?

Teachers would certainly welcome professional development on how to teacher to meet the higher expectations set out in the curriculum and how to connect these with learners' current understandings. Currently it is intended that professional development will be provided through Maths Hubs. While there are Maths Hubs in many parts of England, they do not have an entire reach, something which raises the key issue of geographical equity as discussed in ACME's Empowering teachers: success for learners report.

So, what should be done in the future when reforming a curriculum? Those of us who have seen several revisions of the National Curriculum since 1988 are convinced of the need for long-term curriculum development. Reviews should be regular, ongoing, informed, trialled and over a sufficient time scale, such as every 10 years. Investment in a longer term, considered review would also develop support for teachers in securing positive mathematical experiences for learners.

Find out more about the mathematics curriculum in ACME's 'The maths curriculum' Snapshot and on ACME's curriculum webpage. You can also read about ACME's thoughts on professional development in the 'Teachers of maths: supply, training and development' Snapshot and in ACME's 'Empowering teachers: success for leaners' report.

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