China trip could help Norfolk be best for maths - Dame Rachel de Souza

Dame Rachel de Souza Photo: Bill Smith Dame Rachel de Souza Photo: Bill Smith

Wednesday, February 19, 2014
6:30 AM

Norfolk could become the leader of an education revolution that would transform children’s achievement in maths in England.

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That was the bold ambition of the head of one of the county’s academy school trusts as she prepares to join education minister and South West Norfolk MP Elizabeth Truss on a trip to China to learn why Shanghai tops international education league tables.

Dame Rachel de Souza said second year pupils at the Great Yarmouth and Norwich Primary Academies, which are part of her Inspiration Trust, out-performed older children after they were taught using the Singapore maths model.

She said: “My hope is that we can get some of these ideas back to Norfolk and bring them to all Norfolk schools. We would want to work with the local authority schools.

“I would like to see Norfolk lead the way. This could be something that Norfolk can be a UK world beater at, if we get it right.”

Shanghai’s 15-year-olds topped the 2012 international Pisa tables for maths, while England was ranked in 26th place, and a report by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) said the children of cleaners in Shanghai and Singapore outperform the sons and daughters of UK doctors and lawyers in global maths tests.

The latest analysis found that in the UK, the children of parents with a “professional” job - such as doctor or lawyer - scored 525.94 points on average in the Pisa maths test.

In Shanghai, the sons and daughters of parents with “elementary” occupations - such as cleaners and catering assistants - scored 568.9 points on average. In Singapore, this group scored 533.58 points.

Dame Rachel said she expected to see short but very intensive large group lectures, followed by one-to-one follow up, with no-one going home until they had mastered the concept, and added that teachers returning marked assessments to pupils the following day also seemed to be vital.

She said maths was particularly critical for Norfolk because of the needs of the energy and engineering sectors.

Ms Truss said: “Shanghai is the top-performing part of the world for maths – their children are streets ahead. Shanghai and Singapore have teaching practices and a positive philosophy that make the difference. They have a belief that diligence redeems lack of ability.

“Our new curriculum has borrowed from theirs because we know it works – early learning of key arithmetic, and a focus on times tables and long division, for instance.

“They also have a can-do attitude to maths, which contrasts with the long-term anti-maths culture that exists here.

“The reality is that unless we change our philosophy, and get better at maths, we will suffer economic decline.”

Does Britain have an anti-maths culture? Email newsdesk@archant.co.uk

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