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Education reform in England: new initiatives and changes announced

It’s shaping up to be a busy month for education reform in England. Here’s some news in brief.

Three initiatives, that I’ve noticed, have been announced by the Department for Education recently.

  • The University of Cambridge published a press release, widely linked to but currently is missing from the site, though available elsewhere, which announced “an exciting new Maths Education Programme” which “aims to provide innovative, rich and stimulating materials to help support and inspire teachers and students of advanced post-16 mathematics”. This would receive £2.8 million “over the initial three years of the five year project, with a review after three years” and be led by Professor Martin Hyland, head of the Department of Pure Mathematics and Mathematical Statistics, and Lynne McClure, director of NRICH. This would “seek to reconsider and rethink how changes in our understanding of maths impact on the mathematics which is studied at school level”.
  • Mathematics in Education and Industry published a press release which explains that it has been funded to investigate how the ideas in a blog post by Tim Gowers from June “might inform a curriculum that could become the basis of anew course for students who do not currently study mathematics post-16”. Gowers wrote a piece in The Spectator about this: Should Alice marry Bob? Introducing a new ‘real world’ maths course, designed to engage every sort of pupil.
  • Plymouth University have published a press release to announce “a new project to help improve the standard of mathematics teaching in secondary schools across the country”. This will work in 70 schools in England and will “draw upon good practice from around the world – including countries such as Japan, China and Finland – to create a more ‘collaborative’ and engaging style of lesson, one in which pupils take a more active, problem-solving role”.

Meanwhile, Ofqual have announced the results of a consultation on proposed changes to A-levels in England. From September 2013, January exams will be scrapped and students will be allowed only one resit. The BBC expects these are “the first of what are expected to be widespread changes”. More information is available on the Ofqual A Level reform page.

Finally, for now, Education and Childcare Minister Elizabeth Truss has announced a ban on calculators for 11-year-olds in England from 2014, saying that “all young children should be confident with methods of addition, subtraction, times tables and division before they pick up the calculator to work out more complex sums”. The BBC report that teaching unions “argued banning calculator use in the tests would risk pupils’ ability to use them to tackle more complex mathematical problems”.

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