Improvement in Supply of Mathematics Teachers
Improvements in the supply of mathematics teachers to schools were referred to by Education Secretary, Mrs Margaret Thatcher, in London today at the Foundation Dinner for the Schools Mathematics Project.
Although they were still in short supply, Mrs Thatcher said that:
“Sample surveys undertaken in 1971 and 1972 by the Department showed that some progress had been made in recruiting more mathematicians to the teaching profession. In 1971 there was a deficiency of about 1,600 maths graduates, offset by some 1,000 non-graduates who were to some extent filling the gap. In 1972 the deficiency had fallen to 1,100 graduates, offset by about 800 non-graduates. This year, with 250,000 more pupils in the secondary schools, many areas in the country are in need of more maths teachers, and in some schools the shortage is severe. There were however real difficulties in the first year of RSLA.
“Once this year is past, the general teacher supply position should resume its steady improvement. Without expecting dramatic results we may hope that maths teaching will share in the trend. The number of mathematicians emerging from the universities is continuing to increase, but the entry to teaching from that source will be affected from year to year by the demand in other fields of employment. So far as the colleges of education are concerned we have included mathematics in the list of specialist subjects for which recruitment should be at least maintained in the 1974 intake.”
Mrs Thatcher referred also to an inquiry she has instigated into the testing of mathematical attainment. She said:
“We have asked the NFER to undertake an investigation into the feasibility of producing tests of mathematical attainment, comparable to those which have been in use for many years in reading, but without the disadvantages which we have found to be attached to that particular method of testing. We hope that they will be able to produce a practical tool for use in national surveys and one which may well be of use to people carrying out research independently. [end p1]
“This is certainly not an attempt to influence the curriculum by the back door by setting up standard tests which everyone will be expected to use. What we hope can be devised is a system of tests which is reliable, internally consistent, and well enough calibrated, to enable it to be used for comparisons over a period of time, but which can also be modified over time so that it does not become out of date. In addition it needs to be so open in its approach that teachers will realise that they are free to teach according to whatever method they think is appropriate, and are not tempted to “teach to the test” . This may sound a fairly tough assignment but the present project is a feasibility study on which I expect to receive a report and to make further decisions next year.”