Bring in the primary specialists

Bring in the primary specialists

Unlocking children’s potential – and ultimately this country’s future success – must begin in primary school.

For far too long subsequent governments have been focusing most of their efforts on improving GCSE results.

What many politicians have failed to realise is that in order to improve the end exam results you need to have a student that’s fully equipped with basic numeracy and literacy when they start their secondary education journey – not when they end it.

And the only way you can do that is by getting things right at primary level.

Some moves have been made in this area and the changes to the primary curriculum in 2014; of which I was an advisor for the maths curriculum, are beginning to bear some fruit.

Ideally, I would like the curriculum to be even more robust but understand that these things need time to embed and for schools and teachers to adapt.

However, I do think there is a quick-win solution that would not only benefit the children but relieve some of the stresses faced by headteachers and teachers.

Whether you are going to be a doctor, entrepreneur or shop worker there is one thing you’ll all need from your education – and that is a basic grasp of numeracy and literacy.

Sadly there are still too many 11 year-olds beginning secondary school without these skills and by then it is largely too late.

It is far more difficult in a bigger school in which children move from one subject to the next to have these problems recognised and rectified.

Therefore it has to be done at primary level and one answer, in my view, is to get maths and English specialists in to teach at primary schools.

These specialists should be targeting Key Stage 2 children (years 3-6) when maths becomes more technical and English skills more crucial.

Children in those year groups should receive a minimum of three hours maths and three hours of English lessons from a specialist teacher every week.

No teacher can be adequately qualified to teach such a wide range of subjects in the primary curriculum.

While it is a good idea to have generalists who focus on all the other subjects of the curriculum – history, music, geography and PE, there is an opportunity for specialists to be brought in for maths and English.

Specialists in maths and English will more than likely guarantee that the subjects are taught to a very high standard across the year groups.

This has been successful in prep schools, which mostly out-perform state primaries, and

Asian countries leave us well behind in the education league tables.

In my experience, I have found there are a lot of primary teachers who do not feel confident teaching maths to a good level. This may be because they struggled with maths in school themselves.

And indeed many parents feel their children are not being taught to a high enough standard and are turning to extra lessons from tutors – which is all well and good if you are wealthy enough to afford that.

Schools would also find their teaching programmes were more focused if all the maths and English were taught by individual subject specialists.

There are some programmes that exist to train and supply maths specialists for primary schools.

But we need to act more quickly and I would urge schools and the government to look at ways of incentivising secondary school teachers into primary education.

Not only would this help boost the attainment level of children in those subjects but it would better prepare them for life in secondary school.

Of course, these things cost money and education budgets are tight.

But I would urge the government to explore targeted funding for improving the standards in primary education – this has to be a priority.

As I said before, if you do not get an education right from the start you’ll be on to a losing battle for the remainder of a child’s school career.

We are facing a very important time in this country’s future, in which we need to prosper as a standalone nation outside of the EU.

Education and equipping the future workforce with the right skills is going to be crucial if we’re to succeed.