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4. Mr. Kelvin Hopkins (Luton, North) (Lab): What steps his Department is taking to help improve the teaching of mathematics in schools following the publication of the report by Professor Adrian Smith. [162118]

The Secretary of State for Education and Skills (Mr. Charles Clarke): I very much welcome Professor Smith's far-reaching report, "Making Mathematics Count". It is vital that we get mathematics right. I am therefore considering the report's recommendations carefully.

Meanwhile, in schools, the primary and key stage 3 strategies continue to raise standards in maths through supporting continual improvement in teaching and learning practice. Similarly, post-16, we are developing a strategy for supporting mathematics teaching in further education and sixth form colleges. Since teacher training bursaries and golden hellos were introduced in September 2000, recruitment to courses of initial teacher training for teachers of maths in England has risen by 50 per cent.

Mr. Hopkins : I congratulate my right hon. Friend on his work in promoting mathematics, and on the Government's general record in that regard. This is the first Government to take seriously the problems that Britain has with mathematics. The Moser report, which concluded that 50 per cent. of the population do not know what 50 per cent. means, was a wake-up call. My right hon. Friend rightly recommends the Smith report, which deals with post-14 education, but the real problems start in primary, and especially infant, education. Will he look much more closely at teaching methods, and make prescriptive decisions about what methods should be used in primary education to ensure that young children learn mathematics properly, long before they get to 14?

Mr. Clarke: On the point about primaries, I very much agree with my hon. Friend. There has been a general welcome in primary schools for the numeracy strategy and the support that it gives. People have been very positive about it and, indeed, the welcome has been greater than was the case with the literacy strategy. I very much agree with what my hon. Friend says, and a careful reading of Professor Smith's report shows that it is quite a serious critique of the whole process of how mathematics is dealt with in our country. That requires radical solutions, and we will look at matters such as teaching methods, in the way that my hon. Friend suggests.

Mr. Archie Norman (Tunbridge Wells) (Con): Does the Secretary of State accept that the decline in participation in mathematics at A-level in our secondary schools, especially among female students, has serious implications for the future of our engineering, science and technology industries? Does he accept that there is an acute need to look again at the A-level mathematics syllabus, to make it more accessible and appealing to students and thus ensure that participation increases? That is absolutely vital for the future of British industry.

Mr. Clarke: I completely agree with every word of that question. I commend Professor Smith's report to

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the hon. Gentleman, as it goes into detail on exactly those issues and on the way in which the AS and A2 qualifications have worked. The report makes serious recommendations about the curriculum, and we have begun discussing them already with the Qualifications and Curriculum Authority, to establish how we can take them forward. However, the hon. Gentleman is quite right: significant changes are needed in the post-14 curriculum, and we also need the support in primaries and key stage 3 to which my hon. Friend the Member for Luton, North (Mr. Hopkins) referred.

Dr. Ashok Kumar (Middlesbrough, South and Cleveland, East) (Lab): I, too, congratulate the Government on their promotion of mathematics teaching. However, if we are to be successful, should we not encourage the learned societies—such as the Institute of Mathematics, the Royal Academy of Engineering and the Royal Society—to get involved and promote maths teaching much more vigorously than they have done so far?

Mr. Clarke: My hon. Friend is completely right. We have discussed with the societies that he mentions how they can engage themselves more. One recommendation in Professor Smith's report is that we should create a structure that will allow us to engage all those organisations much more directly and explicitly in the teaching of mathematics in our education system. In that regard, there have been some competing interests, if I may put it like that, between different organisations. I am therefore glad to say that everyone is prepared to come together in the interests of achieving a co-ordinated and effective approach. That will make a difference, as my hon. Friend suggests.

Sue Doughty (Guildford) (LD): The Secretary of State will be aware of some of the funding problems faced by Guildford schools over the past couple of years. Head teachers whom I met last night were very pleased to hear that they were going to get additional funding to help with recruitment and retention of mathematics teachers. Will the right hon. Gentleman confirm that the increase in funding per pupil will be for each and every pupil, and not averaged out and given to areas of particular need? That will help our head teachers and governors to continue their very good work.

Mr. Clarke: I appreciate the hon. Lady's support for my right hon. Friend's Budget yesterday and the important announcements that we will debate later today. I confirm that the increases will go right across the country, although the distribution system reflects need in all ways, as indeed it should.

Mrs. Anne Campbell (Cambridge) (Lab): Does my right hon. Friend agree that it is important to get quality teaching into schools and that we need some means of giving incentives to mathematics graduates who have taken highly paid jobs in industry or the City to go into teaching, even for a relatively short period?

Mr. Clarke: I very much agree. That point was made to me forcefully in my hon. Friend's constituency a couple of months ago at the Isaac Newton centre, an outstanding centre of mathematics education and

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research, which has developed good support for maths teaching in schools. We do need incentives of that type. That is one of the points that Professor Smith makes, and we are considering it. We also need systems, which we have in fact established, of recruiting people from industry directly into teaching. There have been some positive schemes already which have exactly the effect that my hon. Friend described.

Mr. Mark Hoban (Fareham) (Con): Professor Smith said in his report that the current maths curriculum did not stretch the top 10 per cent. of pupils while the bottom 30 per cent. were predestined to fail. He also referred to

When will we have a curriculum and teaching that meet the needs of all our young people?

Mr. Clarke: That is precisely the process that we are going towards. As I said in answer to my hon. Friend the Member for Luton, North, I commend Professor Smith's report because it is a serious critique of what is happening, not least on the point that the hon. Gentleman has just made about not meeting the needs of pupils at the top and the bottom. That is why we have set up a process of curriculum change, including the Tomlinson proposals for the whole 14 to 19 curriculum, which will address precisely the point that the hon. Gentleman raises. He might be courteous enough to acknowledge that the Government are taking the issue far more seriously than our predecessors did and really trying to get it right.


6. Mr. Eric Illsley (Barnsley, Central) (Lab): What proposals he has to improve the means of allocation of funding to metropolitan local education authorities. [162120]

The Minister for School Standards (Mr. David Miliband): Local government funding was last reviewed in 2003–04 to deliver a fairer funding system. We will consider what changes might need to be made to the system for 2006–07.

Mr. Illsley : As my hon. Friend is aware, there are some historic discrepancies between the funding of metropolitan authorities and other authorities. For example, there is a difference of something like £100 per pupil between metropolitan authorities and London, given equivalent or even greater need. Given that the Department now controls about 55 per cent. of a local authority's formula standard share, will he look again at the position of metropolitan authorities to achieve a fairer distribution of resources based on need?

Mr. Miliband: My hon. Friend has done a tremendous job in campaigning for extra resources for constituencies such as his. I know that he welcomes the fact that an extra £940 per pupil per year is being spent on students in Barnsley—a higher rise than the national average. We believe that we have a fair system. We do

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not propose to make changes this year or next because we need the new system to bed down. We will look at it again in 2006–07.

Mr. Graham Brady (Altrincham and Sale, West) (Con): In response to last year's funding crisis in schools, the Minister urged schools to spend their capital funding and their reserves. Schools across my constituency, especially primary schools, now face making redundancies in September. Woodheys primary school has said that it will have to make all its classroom support staff redundant in September. What does the Minister intend to do this year to prevent those redundancies from being necessary?

Mr. Miliband: I am surprised that the hon. Gentleman has not mentioned the £820 per pupil per year increase in funding for education in his constituency. I will certainly look at the individual case of Woodheys—whether it has the same number or fewer pupils than last year—but the hon. Gentleman should know that the increase of at least 5 per cent. in every LEA's budget and of at least 4 per cent. per pupil in every school's budget gives a guarantee that has never existed before for every school in the country.

Angela Watkinson (Upminster) (Con): The Minister will share my concern about the number of schools that have been forced to cut classroom teaching assistants this year because of budgetary pressures. That is of particular concern in special schools such as Dycorts in my constituency, where maintaining the adult-pupil ratio is essential to enable special needs pupils to flourish. How will he ensure that the additional funding promised yesterday will reach classrooms?

Mr. Miliband: The hon. Lady raises an important point about special schools. She will know that the special needs plan set out recently by my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State speaks directly to some of the teaching needs in special schools. In relation to funding itself, the funding guarantee per pupil for next year and the year after gives a guarantee that has never existed before in this country. The contribution of special schools to education in the nation is vital; we see them as resources for the whole school system, not as separate from it, and the funding guarantee applies as much to them as to any other school.

Mr. Bob Blizzard (Waveney) (Lab): Is not the allocation of capital funding also important? May I take this opportunity to welcome the £5 million that my hon. Friend has just awarded to three schools in my constituency—Kirkley middle school, Meadow primary and Fen Park primary? That will make an enormous difference to those schools, which are in a deprived area of Lowestoft, and it compares well with what happened during the 19 years that I spent in the classroom under the previous Government, when I saw children educated in ill-equipped, rotting portakabins because there was not the political will to do something about it.

Mr. Miliband: It is always a pleasure to give out capital money when one receives such thanks as that. It is striking that in 1996–97, in the nation as a whole, capital spending on schools was £700 million, less than

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£30,000 for each school. That figure is now more than £4 billion and will rise to £5 billion in 2005–06. Many more schools can look forward to that sort of investment, as long as this Government continue to put it in.

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