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Call for primary teachers to have Higher in maths

SCOTTISH primary school teachers should only be allowed into the profession if they have a maths Higher, an expert has said.

Educationalist Keir Bloomer believes the measure is a vital part of a wider drive to improve basic numeracy in the classroom.

Currently, students who enter primary school teacher training courses in Scotland only need the equivalent of a Standard Grade in maths. However, they must have a Higher in English.

Last year, a major report found around one-quarter of pupils were not classed as working either well or very well in primary school numeracy tests.

Mr Bloomer, the author of a recent report on the future of Scottish education commissioned by think-tank Reform Scotland, believes part of the problem is a lack of confidence in teachers.

He said: "Primary school teachers can be accepted on to teacher training courses with only a Standard Grade pass in maths, rather than a Higher.

"We need to ask why that is the case. Surely we ought to be expecting high standards of numeracy in the primary teaching profession?"

Mr Bloomer, a former chief executive of Clackmannanshire Council, called for a wider campaign to change attitudes towards numeracy. He said: "We have a culture in which it is perfectly fine to say 'I was rotten at maths' but you wouldn't dream of saying 'I'm not very good at reading'.

"We have got to change that because there is a tolerance of poor standards of numeracy that I think is wholly regrettable. So much of our economic fortune, and therefore our social stability, rests on our scientific capacity and therefore our numeracy.

"There is a feeling that maths is hard and, not only is it hard, but it is something for a particular kind of person who is perhaps more geeky. We have to change that."

Mr Bloomer said Scotland should learn from the best avail-able international practice to find out what works best and called on the Scottish Government to make greater efforts to stress the importance of numeracy.

Eileen Prior, executive director of the Scottish Parent Teacher Council, backed Mr Bloomer's concerns.

She said: "We need to think carefully about how, at home and at school, we help build these absolutely fundamental skills.

"Where parents lack confidence in maths themselves it can be a challenge to avoid passing this on to their children.

"The simple message is it's not enough to criticise parents for not supporting their child – practical steps have to be taken."

Larry Flanagan, general secretary of the Educational Institute of Scotland union, added: "We understand the view it may be desirable to look at the entrance requirements for new teacher training entrants in the future, particularly in English and Maths, in light of the new curriculum's focus on literacy and numeracy."

A spokesman for the Scottish Government said: "The new Curriculum for Excellence includes an emphasis on the development of young people's numeracy skills across all areas and at all levels of the curriculum.

"This reflects the importance that the Scottish Government places on numeracy, which unlocks learning in other areas of the curriculum, particularly in science and technology, and is therefore vital for success in the modern world and workplace, and for our future economic prosperity."

Contextual targeting label: 
Education

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