London: Maths teachers are to be flown in from China to help arrest declining standards in Britain.
Sixty English-speaking teachers from Shanghai will be placed in schools from September to promote methods such as rigorous daily maths lessons and homework, ministers were to announce on Wednesday.
The move, brokered by Education Minister Liz Truss following a fact-finding trip to China, is the latest in a series of initiatives aimed at reversing a slide in maths standards.
It follows research showing that the children of cleaners and catering assistants in Shanghai were better at maths than the children of doctors and lawyers in Britain.
The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development study found that youngsters from deprived backgrounds in Shanghai were the equivalent of a year of school ahead of UK children from wealthy homes with well-educated parents. Under the deal, up to 60 teachers from Shanghai will be sent to 30 English schools designated centres of excellence for maths.
The teachers will demonstrate their methods to their English counterparts, who will in turn assist other schools locally to emulate the approach.
The Chinese staff will promote methods such as teaching to the top — where lessons are pitched at bright pupils, while also ensuring middle and lower ability pupils are catered for.
Other techniques include helping struggling pupils one-on-one and giving daily maths lessons, homework and feedback. They are expected to emphasise a “can-do” attitude.
They will champion traditional maths methods such as long division and multiplication, and teaching by specialist maths teachers for children as young as six. The aim is that they will spread best practice to English staff through demonstration and masterclasses, rather than taking charge of classes.
Two maths teachers from each of the 30 English maths “hubs” will work in China for at least a month to learn their world-class teaching techniques. Shanghai teenagers emerged as the best-performing in the world in the maths tests run by the OECD.
Fifteen-year-olds were on average three years ahead of their UK counterparts. The UK was ranked 26th, with our performance found to have stagnated between 2006 and 2012. Truss said: “We have some brilliant maths teachers in this country but what I saw in Shanghai, and other Chinese cities, has only strengthened my belief that we can learn from them. They have a can-do attitude to maths — and I want us to match that.”
National Numeracy chief executive Mike Ellicock said the report on differences between Britain and China had shown that “in Shanghai the kids work immeasurably harder than the teachers”, while the UK “teachers work immeasurably harder than the kids”.
Chinese pupils were significantly more likely to believe that hard work, rather than innate ability, was important in maths, he said.