A two-year study by the CfBT (Centre for British Teachers) has found that England’s trainee teachers are performing less well than a number of key international counterparts. The report, which was commissioned to develop a deeper understanding of how teacher training in mathematics could be made more effective, looked at both primary and secondary maths teachers in a study that compared nine different models.
The participating countries were England, Russia, Ireland, China, Finland, Japan, Hungary, Singapore and the Czech Republic; this somewhat eclectic group of nations were selected for their proven history in mathematics or because they had adopted ‘interesting and relevant practice’ in the training of maths teachers.
The study, which involved 1,400 teachers who each undertook a series of mathematical tests, found trainee teachers from Japan, China and Russia to score the highest, all outperforming England. In fact, at both secondary and primary level England’s trainees scored second from last.
Following the study, the report has recommended raising the minimum maths entry requirement for primary teachers to an AS level. It is currently just a GCSE grade C. It is also recommending that secondary maths teachers, who are already required to hold an A level in maths, take the Mathematics Enhancement Courses that are available in many institutions, in order to develop their skills and knowledge for teaching mathematics.
In addition, the report highlights the issues caused by the significant proportion of secondary maths teachers who leave the profession, stating that it is of considerable importance that ‘the retention rate of competent new teachers is improved.’ Each year around one-third of trainee leave teaching before delivering their first lesson, and a further quarter leave within the first five years. This means that many promising, new maths teachers never fulfil their potential as inspirational guides for today’s secondary maths students.