Although obviously the sheer horror of Betsy DeVos’s appointment in the US inevitably trumps anything home grown, I couldn’t help finding myself seriously incensed by this article:-
He wants the most selective maths degree courses to become less selective. Why? This means they are pretty well inevitably going to become less stretching for the top end – and yes, we do need our very top mathematicians. He fails to acknowledge that actually, teaching mathematicians is not the same as teaching historians. And – perhaps most importantly – he is implicitly suggesting that the universities not right at the very top of the league tables are not worth considering. I’m sure all those departments, and graduates, will really appreciate that.
He wants to encourage the best mathematicians to become teachers. This makes me wonder if he as actually met many seriously good mathematicians. Guess what – I have. And the majority of them, I would never let near a classroom in a million years.
Also – why on earth would he assume that the best mathematicians are needed? Of course you need to know enough to inspire and stretch your pupils. But that is not the same as whether you got the top first in your year at university, now is it?
He wants us to structure our teaching to maximise those who will be ready to study maths at university. Now, I certainly wouldn’t wish to do anything that would put off people from studying maths at university, and certainly our teaching should always cater for, and stretch, those who wish to take the subject further. But… if I were really to aim principally for maximising maths graduates, I would not be doing the majority of my class a service.
So what is my solution to addressing the shortage of maths teachers? Actually, pretty much the same as addressing the general shortage. Stop fiddling around with education. Stop regarding students’ grades as more the teacher’s responsibility than the student’s. Stop valuing what we measure, rather than measuring what we value. Stop guilt-tripping teachers and give them some trust and respect. Then, maybe, the profession won’t be losing so many new entrants so quickly. Then, maybe, it will become attractive in its own right because people will see it as a hugely exciting opportunity to work with and inspire young people, rather than as the express route to a nervous breakdown.