Does It Add Up?

Posted on: 06/01/2023

Happy New Year to you all! The children have very excitedly settled back into their learning and the buzz of excitement around the school is tangible!

I am sure that many of you were interested to hear of Rishi Sunak’s proposal that pupils in England will study maths up until the age of 18. Currently pupils in England are only required to study maths up to the age of 16. Mr. Sunak has stated that we need to "reimagine our approach to numeracy".

At St. Helen’s College we pride ourselves on our approach to the teaching of maths and our ‘challenge for all’ mantra encourages all pupils to achieve highly. But what is fundamental in our lessons is that the children really understand number and its application from the concrete models of numbers to being able to apply their knowledge of maths to more abstract problems and to use this knowledge and understanding across other subjects.  

Since Mr. Sunak’s announcement there has been much debate about why there are such issues surrounding how maths is taught to children, with some stating that children should be taught more advanced concepts like multiplication and algebra at a younger age. St. Helen’s College pupils are already exposed to such concepts at a young age and it was inspiring to hear from one of our current Year 6 pupils that her favourite subject was maths because she is able to use it across so many other subjects. Our pupils are aware that they will be required to use data and number in a wide variety of situations and to see the benefits of mathematical understanding as they use data analysis skills in their other learning such as science and geography (tables, graphs, charts). Their analytical skills are certainly being developed at an early age. 

I am currently preparing some of our Year 6 pupils for their Year 6 senior school interviews and in a group session we discussed Rishi Sunak’s proposal as any changes may affect them post 16. I was so delighted when one of the pupils responded that she thinks that they should continue to study maths after their GCSEs as they will need maths skills in later life; she went on to give me examples such as buying or planning/designing a house, cooking, measuring, converting money if travelling, having a bank account and more.

One of the statistics being reported is that only four in ten children and young people say they have had some financial education at school.  This is an aspect of ‘life skills’ which schools (particularly secondary schools) need to address. But as parents we also have a responsibility to start these life skills in financial education at home at a young age.  Children need to learn about money and its value and importance for living. Sadly some children rarely have the opportunity to handle money now and some are not aware of how we ‘earn’ money. So if the penny drops that this may be your child (no pun intended), please take the opportunity to ‘play’ with your children - take them shopping, let them earn pocket money in return for doing chores around the house and let them save for something special. Talk to them about what bank accounts are; as they get older they will be more inquisitive and there is so much learning which can be instigated at home. Many banks now give great support for financial education for parents in how to help their children - see the link here from HSBC, for example.

Our children are not set into ability groups for maths unlike at many other schools; I am sure that we can all remember the stigma attached to being in the ‘top set’ or the ‘bottom set’. We believe that it is every child’s right to be exposed to the same advanced maths language and concepts. Many experts have shared their views on ‘setting’ in maths and one of these is educational consultant David Didau - you can read his views here. As the pupils move through Key Stage 2 here at St. Helen’s College they will have already had time to ‘own’ their learning of mathematical concepts via their ‘Learning Logs’.  These are instrumental for teachers for their planning and assessment of learning and, ultimately, for the pupils to identify their strengths and areas of mathematical skill and application.

I am very proud of how our pupils are prepared for their lives ahead and have such an awareness of why we teach what we teach and how we teach it. It is so important that school and home empower our children to enjoy maths, to understand why we learn maths and to give them opportunities to use their mathematical skills and knowledge not only in their other subjects in school but in their everyday lives.

Ms Drummond