Primary school pupils across the country are set to benefit as a second group of Shanghai’s top teachers arrive in England this week to share their world-class approach to maths teaching and help further raise standards in the subject.
The visiting teachers are the second group to come to England as part of an ongoing exchange between the Department for Education and the Shanghai Municipal Education Commission, the highest-performing jurisdiction in the world for maths.
In November last year, 29 maths teachers spent a month working closely with teachers in primary schools across England. English teachers say techniques introduced by their Shanghai colleagues - such as spending longer on topics before moving on and ‘teaching to the top’ through whole-class teaching - have already had a positive impact in their schools. The exchange has encouraged teachers to change the way they approach lesson planning to develop a deep understanding and fluency in mathematics.
School Reform Minister Nick Gibb welcomed the arriving Chinese teachers, and described the importance of this school-led movement towards mastery in maths.
School Reform Minister Nick Gibb said:
Our plan for education will ensure children in this country receive a world-class education. The first phase of this innovative exchange demonstrated the kind of school-led collaboration which will help transform maths teaching in this country and raise standards for all.
The Shanghai approach - with children taught as a whole class, building depth of understanding of the structure of mathematics, supported by the use of high-quality textbooks - is proving a hit in those schools in the country where it’s been tried. And standards of maths in these schools are rising rapidly. Careful teaching of the traditional calculation methods and plenty of practice in class and as part of pupils’ homework are key to this success.
Charlie Stripp, Director of the National Centre for Excellence in the Teaching of Mathematics (NCETM), said:
I am thrilled by the success of the teacher exchange so far. When the first wave of Shanghai teachers taught in English schools in November, it was immensely encouraging to see how willingly pupils adapted to being taught maths by a teacher from China, and the enthusiastic way in which the English teachers engaged with their Shanghai counterparts, and, as a result, began to change their practice.
Even more encouraging, though, are the early signs we are seeing that this exposure to Shanghai teaching methods is helping primary school children develop a deeper understanding of the structure of maths and how numbers fit together - something that will be of invaluable benefit as they journey through school and life.
We are determined, over time, to help all English schools benefit from this valuable exercise.
Speaking during the first phase of the exchange in November, Luke McNamara, Primary Lead for Outwood Grange, said:
We have had an extremely positive experience that has had direct impact on the year 2s’ and 3s’ understanding and application in multiplication. Our Shanghai colleague has expertly designed lessons that continually build new knowledge and understanding through deep and varied teaching.
We have also seen the great impact that same-day intervention has had in preventing the gap and ensuring learners begin the next day at the same starting point.
The 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.
In September 2014, 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.
A further phase of the exchange is set to take place in the autumn and spring terms of the 2015 to 2016 academic year focusing on secondary maths teaching.
The teacher-led exchange is part of the government’s maths hub programme - a national network of outstanding schools announced in December 2013 which will promote excellence in the teaching of maths. Through the maths hub network, the Chinese teachers will also lead masterclasses and training sessions with other local schools so more teachers can benefit directly from their expertise.
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.