Lack of specialist maths teachers ‘massive injustice’, says flagship scheme boss

Part-time roles and emphasising the 'social value' of maths teaching could help recruitment woes, Charlie Stripp said

Part-time roles and emphasising the 'social value' of maths teaching could help recruitment woes, Charlie Stripp said

It is a “massive injustice” that some children are not taught by specialist maths teachers, the boss of government’s flagship maths scheme has warned.

But Charlie Stripp, director for the National Centre for Excellence in Teaching Mathematics, added it was “probably a mistake” schools with few specialists prioritise GCSE classes over key stage 3.

A total of 1,844 new maths teachers were recruited last year – 90 per cent of the government’s original target. But DfE had reduced its target in the subject.

Recent research found that nearly half of secondary schools have used non-specialists to teach at least some maths lessons.

Stripp, also chief executive of charity Mathematics in Education and Industry, said there are “serious teacher shortages” in secondary maths, which is a “critical time” in children’s education.

He told a Westminster Education Forum this morning he felt “very strongly” that it was a “massive injustice” some children were not being educated by specialists.

He said secondary schools “rarely have a full complement of specialist maths teachers and that’s particularly true for schools in disadvantaged areas.

“Again that’s something I feel very strongly is just a massive injustice that all young people deserve to be able to access the best possible maths education.

“The professional development we provide can support that but we really have got to do something about teacher supply.”

‘Mistake to deploy non-specialists in KS3’

Stripp said when schools are short of specialists, they “generally choose to deploy their non-specialists” in key stage three which is a “crucial time” in a child’s maths education. 

“I actually think that’s probably a mistake, I think a really sound grasp of key stage three mathematics lays secure foundations for a successful GCSE experience for young people. 

“The ones that don’t achieve that grade 4 and above in GCSE at age 16 tend to be those who haven’t grasped mathematics in the key stage three curriculum.” 

Stripp said people with the “qualifications, knowledge and understanding” to become a maths teacher have “lots of other choices of profession open to” them.

Asked what could be done to resolve the recruitment crisis, Stripp said flexible working, such as part-time hours, could help.

He added “really emphasising the social value and importance” of maths teaching, as well as “how enjoyable it is”.

“I left accountancy to take up teaching because I like doing it so much. I think getting the idea of people feeling it’s a really worthwhile thing to be doing and a way of using your skills in a very rewarding way. But also some kind of recognition of the importance of the role as well.”

MEI has just won a tender to supply primary and secondary maths resources for the controversial Oak National Academy.

Stripp said “high quality lesson resources” can save teachers time, but “what they can’t do is be a substitute for a really effective teacher”.

First launched in 2006, the NCETM is funded by government to deliver the maths hubs programme and the teaching for mastery scheme. The body is run by the education software firm Tribal, as part of a contract worth £8.9m.

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  1. Anthony William Stoppani

    I am a teacher of Maths (Maths Degree, PGCE Secondary Education, specialising in Maths) who took a year out to do a MSc Computing many years ago and then taught ICT for a number of years

    I have found it difficult to get a post as maths teacher. I have been UPS 3 for many years – perhaps that is one of the reasons?