Press release

Network of 32 maths hubs across England aims to raise standards

Minister Truss states there's no reason why children in England cannot reach same level as those in Japan, Singapore and China.

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

pupils with raised hands in classroom

A national network of maths hubs that will seek to match the standards achieved in top-performing east Asian countries - including Japan, Singapore and China - was launched today by Education Minister Elizabeth Truss.

She revealed the names of the 32 schools and academy trusts which will lead the hubs across England and provide a model for schools in their area. The scheme is backed by £11 million funding from the Department for Education and will be accessible to all schools.

These ‘pace-setters’ will implement the Asian-style mastery approach to maths which has achieved world-leading success - with children in these jurisdictions often around 2 years ahead of English children by age 15.

Hubs will develop this programme with academics from Shanghai Normal University and England’s National Centre for Excellence in the Teaching of Maths (NCETM). Later this year, 50 teachers from Shanghai will be embedded in the hubs to teach pupils and run masterclasses for other teachers. Lessons will be shared online.

The techniques and methods used will include:

  • specialist subject teaching at primary in maths and other subjects instead of a designated class teacher
  • effective use of textbooks and shared lesson plans so teachers are not reinventing the wheel
  • lesson plans available online so any teacher can use them and rate which are most useful
  • daily maths lessons, homework and catch up to ensure all children master core techniques
  • fluency and deep understanding of formal maths including columnar addition and subtraction, long multiplication and long division in line with the new national curriculum, as well as times tables and number bonds
  • teachers in the schools participating in research, frequent classroom observation and feedback

The Head of Education at the respected OECD, Andreas Schleicher, has described the programme as ‘potentially transformative’.

The hubs will also be supporting the Your Life campaign to increase the number of students studying maths and physics at A level. The campaign, led by businesses, aims to increase the number of students taking maths and physics A level by 50% over the next 3 years.

International test results show that England’s performance in maths has stagnated in recent years while other parts of the world have surged ahead. The OECD’s Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) now ranks us 25th, with the table headed by a clutch of south-east Asian jurisdictions including Shanghai, South Korea, Hong Kong, Japan and Singapore.

Education Minister Elizabeth Truss said:

There is no reason why children in England cannot achieve the same standards in maths as those in Japan, Singapore and China. We put in more resources in England than in these countries and we have the best generation of teachers ever. Yet our children are 2 to 3 years behind by the age of 15.

We must learn from the systematic practice of these high achieving countries, who are constantly seeking to improve. Maths hubs will bring this approach to all parts of the country and all schools will be able to benefit.

Our hubs will allow teachers to learn from each other, helping to give them the confidence and knowledge they need to teach maths even more effectively.

Maths is the most important subject for a child’s future - it commands the highest earnings, provides the best protection against unemployment and will get you everywhere, opening doors to dozens of careers.

One of the schools chosen to lead a maths hub is Fox Primary School in Ladbroke Grove, west London. Like the other lead schools, Fox was chosen for its high-quality maths teaching.

Teachers also focus on giving quick feedback to children. Some 98% of 11-year-olds at the school exceeded the expected level (achieving level 5 or above) in maths last year - more than twice the national average of 41%.

The school is also expert at supporting a number of struggling primary schools in the area; offering teacher training and helping them develop high-quality lesson plans.

In one school there has been a significant rise in the number of 11-year-olds achieving the expected level in maths. Between 2012 and 2013 the number of pupils in this school reaching the required standard rose from 70% to 96%.

Fox will now be given the resources to offer this kind of support to a much larger group of schools developing teachers’ subject knowledge and confidence.

Paul Cotter, Headteacher of Fox Primary School, said:

We are very excited to become a lead school in the maths hub programme. The net beneficiary of effective maths practice is the pupils, and the maths hub programme will allow the greatest possible dissemination of best practice to primary schools in our network.

Schools working in an insular, unitary fashion is a waste of a great potential to share ideas, experiences and resources amongst colleagues. We believe that learning from each other, and from expert maths teachers in China, will bring about a marked improvement in subject knowledge and pedagogy in the area of primary mathematics.

The network of hubs includes primary and secondary schools as well as further education colleges. In Sheffield, Notre Dame High School will lead the Hallam Teaching School Alliance that will support up to 600 schools in the region.

Paul Haigh, Director of the Hallam Teaching School Alliance, said:

We are honoured to have been selected as a maths hub lead school. We see improvements in maths teaching as a huge challenge that needs to be met head on to ensure our education system rivals the best in the world and our economy is strong for the future.

We work in an area where maths standards are frankly not high enough in all schools but thankfully there are many pockets of outstanding practice in terms of teaching expertise and pupil performance.

The full list of lead schools is:

  • Comberton Academy Trust in Cambridge
  • The Hertfordshire & Essex High School and Science College in Hertfordshire
  • The Inspiration Trust in Norfolk (Sir Isaac Newton Sixth Form Free School) with Kesgrave High School
  • George Spencer Academy, Nottinghamshire and Derbyshire
  • The Minster School in Southwell, Nottinghamshire
  • Fox Primary School in Ladbroke Grove, London
  • The St Marylebone CofE School in Westminster, London
  • Belleville Primary School in Wandsworth, London
  • Elmhurst Primary School in Newham, London
  • Woolwich Polytechnic School for Boys in Thamesmead, London
  • The Harris Federation in London
  • The North Tyneside Learning Trust in Newcastle
  • Carmel College in Darlington
  • The Bright Futures Educational Trust in Cheshire
  • The Ashton on Mersey Teaching School Alliance and Dean Trust in Cheshire
  • St Helens Teaching School Alliance in Merseyside
  • St. John the Baptist Catholic Comprehensive School in Woking, Surrey
  • Denbigh School in Milton Keynes
  • Mary Rose Academy in Portsmouth
  • St Paul’s Catholic College in Burgess Hill, West Sussex
  • Wycombe High School in Buckinghamshire
  • The Woodroffe School in Lyme Regis, Dorset
  • Balcarras School in Cheltenham, Gloucestershire
  • Truro and Penwith College in Truro, Cornwall
  • Cabot Learning Federation in Bristol
  • Bishop Challoner Catholic College in Birmingham
  • Painsley Catholic College in Cheadle, Staffordshire
  • The Priory Federation of Academies Trust in Shropshire
  • Harrogate Grammar School in Harrogate, north Yorkshire
  • Outwood Grange Academies Trust in Wakefield
  • Notre Dame High School in Sheffield
  • Trinity Academy Halifax in Halifax

The NCETM will co-ordinate the programme at a national level. The NCETM has already trialled the maths hubs approach working with several leading teaching schools.

By establishing pathfinder maths hubs which are already demonstrating how well-placed certain teaching schools are to provide strategic leadership. Also evident is the strong commitment from a diverse range of partners to pool their expertise in a collective effort to support schools in maths education.

As the programme develops the NCETM will ensure that best practice in hubs is shared amongst the whole network and drive improvement.

Charlie Stripp, Director of the NCETM:

The maths hubs programme has immense potential to bring about widespread and long-lasting improvements to the way all English school and college students learn maths, and retain that learning for use in later life. We know there are many examples of excellent mathematics education within the school and college system.

The maths hubs programme offers a means of spreading that excellence more widely, sharing proven good practice and supporting innovation. It also provides a means to disseminate, exploit and build on lessons that English teachers learn from each other, and from other countries, in particular as a result of the exchange project with teachers in China starting this autumn.

The Shanghai Teacher Exchange programme will see up to 60 English-speaking maths teachers from China embedded in the 30 maths hubs, starting this autumn term.

The Chinese teachers will run master classes for local schools and provide subject-specific on-the-job teacher training.

Two leading English maths teachers from each of the 30 maths hubs will work in schools in China for at least a month, to learn their world-class teaching approaches. The teachers will then put into practice in England what they have learnt and spread this widely to their peers.

Hubs will develop local specialist expertise by including local university faculties, area representatives of national initiatives (such as the Further Mathematics Support Programme and the Core Maths Support Programme), subject associations and appropriate local employers.

They will also work with new maths and physics chairs, PhD graduates being recruited to become teachers to take their expertise into the classroom and transform the way the maths and physics are taught. Chairs who will be offered wages of £40,000 - jointly funded by the government and businesses - will make maths and physics teaching more inspirational, practical and cutting-edge - inspiring more pupils to study them.

The maths hubs programme is just one part of wider government reforms to raise standards in maths education. We are:

  • introducing a rigorous curriculum that focuses on the basics in primary so pupils can progress and achieve greater success at secondary
    • there is increased challenge in primary school maths with more demanding concepts (eg calculations of fractions, volume and area) introduced earlier. Children will be expected to know their 12x12 times table by age 9
    • secondary school pupils will learn about rates of change, probability and algebra
  • banning calculators from tests for 11-year-olds
  • introducing tough new GCSEs that are more demanding than current exams
  • involving our top universities in developing new maths A levels and are funding Cambridge University to develop an advanced maths curriculum for A level students so they are ready for rigorous degree courses
  • making it mandatory for anyone not achieving a C or better at GCSE maths to continue studying the subject until they do
  • providing the highest level of bursaries for maths graduates to recruit more top maths graduates to increase quality of teaching
  • running the Your Life campaign, led by entrepreneurs to highlight the opportunities for those with maths and science in sectors such as marketing, law and engineering

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Published 1 July 2014