Sunday, 15 June 2008

Maths Teachers and real numbers

I read in the press yesterday that the government has announced its intention to have a specialised maths teacher in every primary school within 5 years. Fantastic you might say. Proves this government is serious about Education, Education, Education. Alternatively you might question why such a vital subject isn't already being taught by specialist teachers.

In actual fact it displays the complete and utter inability of this government to carry out basic maths themselves, probably as a result of politicians no longer having to live in the real world. A Specialist maths teacher in every school will need an additional 3,000 teachers every year for the next 5 years in order to hit the target. That is ADDITIONAL maths teachers, without replacing any who leave (mind you according to figures I have seen there are currently only 200 specialist maths teachers in primary schools in the whole country).

According to the Training and Development Agency for Schools only about 2,000 maths teachers were likely to be trained this year (2008), with even fewer next year. Secondary schools across England and Wales have advertised 1,650 vacancies for maths teachers already this year. That leaves the government quite a bit short of its pledged maths teacher in every primary school. In fact the current output of qualified maths teachers will be hard pressed just to keep up with the numbers leaving the profession or moving into the Private Education Sector.

This government, in common with local government, is great at thinking up policies, announcing targets and writing press releases that say how wonderful they are. Unfortunately they are totally unable to deliver on their pledges because in the real world announcing a target doesn't actually mean that the target will be instantly met. Politics needs people who have actually had to achieve something rather than the current bunch who think all they have to do to make something true is to announce i to the press. Captain Piccard of the USS Enterprise might be able to "make it so" with a wave of his hand but that also isn't actually real life, despite what many "Trekkies" might want to believe.

PS The government also announced (again) its commitment to offshore wind power. Try applying some maths skills to the targets for turbine construction and then factor In the restrictions of having to physically construct, site and commission the turbines! The government's program is already several hundred turbines behind schedule!

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