The Implementation of the Curricular Requirements of the Education Reform Act 1989-90

This report is the result of HMI monitoring the first year of the implementation of the National Curriculum in mathematics in Key Stages One and Three. Evidence was collected on visits made during the year by primary and mathematics specialists to 291 primary schools, 20 middle schools and 373 secondary schools. While the emphasis was on work in Years One and Seven, other years were observed in order to provide a context for evaluating the progress made and any changes.

The report recognised that a promising start had been made to the introduction of the National Curriculum in mathematics. With signs that the range and standard of work had improved.

Visits to schools showed that the large majority of schools had responded to the challenge of the National Curriculum by reviewing schemes of work and generally evaluating their practices. The most successful schools were those where the staff worked as a team, effectively led by a mathematics co-ordinator or head of department.

Although significant staffing problems were reported in both primary and secondary sectors, relating to turnover, long-term absence or recruitment, it was judged to be adequate or better in almost three-quarters of the secondary schools visited. Staff in primary schools who had been encouraged to collaborate had made more progress and felt more confident than teachers working alone.

It was noted that students learned more effectively when they were provided with a variety of learning materials and experiences such as practical work, problem solving and discussion, and lessons which offered these were increasing in regularity.

Much of the work for Year One students was pitched appropriately, but some students were under challenged, whilst for students in Year Seven work was initially based on Levels Two or Three, representing serious under expectation by teachers and a lack of attention to previous attainment.

The greatest concern expressed by teachers related to assessing, recording and reporting students' performance and very few schools had begun to develop assessment policies related to Attainment Targets.

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