Press release

Elite teachers travel from Shanghai for pioneering maths exchange

Chinese maths teachers will spend time in English primary schools to share their teaching methods as part of the teacher-led exchange.

This was published under the 2010 to 2015 Conservative and Liberal Democrat coalition government

Chinese maths teachers

Shanghai’s top maths teachers will be embedded in primary schools across England from this week to share their world-class approach to maths teaching, and help further raise standards in the subject.

The visiting teachers are the first group to come to England as part of an exchange between the Department for Education and the Shanghai Municipal Education Commission - the highest-performing jurisdiction in the world for maths.

The 29 teachers will spend 3 weeks in selected primary schools, working in partnership with their local maths hub, led by a school chosen for their high-quality maths teaching and subject specialism. The exchange’s focus on primary level maths mirrors the emphasis Shanghai teachers place on establishing core skills at a young age to give pupils a sound basis for moving on to more advanced concepts.

The teachers from Shanghai will share the methods which have helped them consistently top international performance tables, including ‘teaching to the top’ - reinforcing the expectation that all students are capable and expected to achieve high standards - and rapid intervention to prevent pupils falling behind.

School Reform Minister Nick Gibb welcomed the arriving Chinese teachers and outlined his ambition for the exchange to set an example for the way education systems around the world can learn from each other.

School Reform Minister Nick Gibb said:

Our plan for education is ensuring children in this country receive a world-class education which will equip them with the skills and knowledge they need to succeed in a competitive global environment.

Shanghai currently leads the way in maths performance and there is no reason why our children cannot achieve the same high standards. This innovative exchange programme enables our teachers to develop their professional skills alongside those from the most successful education system in the world.

This exchange is part of our ongoing commitment to transform mathematics teaching in this country and raise standards for all.

The teacher-led exchange is part of the government’s maths hub programme - a national network of outstanding schools announced earlier this year which will promote excellence in the teaching of maths. Through the maths hub network, the Chinese teachers will also lead master-classes and training sessions with other local schools so more teachers can benefit directly from their expertise.

Charlie Stripp, Director of the National Centre for Excellence in the Teaching of Mathematics (NCETM) said:

I am hugely impressed by the way maths is taught in Shanghai primary schools and I’m certain that primary school teachers, and pupils, in England can benefit from working with teachers from Shanghai.

Shanghai teachers employ a mastery approach to maths teaching, which fits well with the structure of our new maths national curriculum. There are already examples of the mastery approach to maths teaching being successfully implemented in some English schools, and I firmly believe it can, and should, be embedded deeply and widely throughout our schools.

I have seen at first hand in Shanghai classrooms how effective this approach can be and I believe the Shanghai teacher exchange will be a powerful catalyst to change the way we teach maths and raise pupils’ achievement in maths throughout England.

In September, 71 top maths teachers from across England travelled to Shanghai to spend time with their exchange partners in high-performing schools and colleges across the region. They spent 2 weeks observing excellent teaching and discussing learning methods and approaches with their peers in lectures and workshops. This has helped our teachers to identify elements of the successful mastery method that could be adapted for the English system, with many already making changes to the way they teach mathematics as a result of their visit.

Martina McCollom, Head at St. Augustine’s R.C. Primary School, Darlington who took part in the exchange said:

The exchange visit to Shanghai was an extremely valuable learning experience; allowing us to witness first-hand the rapid progress of pupils in maths lessons, the precision design of those lessons and the supportive culture of observations and teacher research groups.

We are already reviewing aspects of teaching such as the length of maths lessons, the frequency and content of homework and how to implement same-day intervention for pupils who need some extra help.

We are delighted to be able to work again with our Chinese colleagues to develop the right strategies; learning from each other to ensure the very best provision and outcomes for all our pupils.

The remaining 34 primary maths teachers from China will travel to England in early 2015, with a further phase of the exchange set to take place in the autumn and spring terms of the 2015 to 2016 academic year, focusing on secondary maths teaching.

The government is prioritising an overhaul of maths education because of the importance of good grades in the subject to young people: it commands the highest earnings, provides the best protection against unemployment and opens doors to dozens of careers.

DfE enquiries

Published 4 November 2014