There has been a generational shift in maths teaching in the UK.
There has been a generational shift in maths teaching in the UK.

Why British kids are outperforming Aussies

British students' maths results are improving after a change to the curriculum made the coursework harder and schools put an increased focus on the subject in primary schools.

As Australian students standards fall below where they were 20 years ago in New South Wales, six months behind where they were 15 years ago in Victoria and a decade of decline in Queensland, the UK has been bucking the trend.

The UK national curriculum was reviewed in 2014, with tougher standards and higher demands on students such as knowing their 12 times tables by the age of nine.

They also start learning fractions at the age of five or six, before some children in Australia have even started school.

 

 

The UK results from the international PISA test of 15 year olds showed that British students increased their maths results from 492 to 502 (out of a possible 550) and their English results from 498 to 504.

And that's on the back of a trend of improving results since maths was put at the top of the class a generation ago.

There has been a generational shift in maths teaching in the UK.
There has been a generational shift in maths teaching in the UK.

Professor of Mathematics at University College London's Institute of Education Jeremy Hodgen said that a greater emphasis on maths has been bearing fruit.

"The national curriculum was pared down and it changed from a levels based system to an aged-based system. And it had some more challenging things in it," he said.

Prof Hodgen said it was too early to tell how the reforms had changed standards but he said there had been a generational shift in maths teaching in the UK, which began in 1995.

"We are starting to see our relatively high performance at primary mathematics show through into secondary," he said.

"It might also be that the strong focus on mathematics from successive governments for the past two decades or so are starting to have an effect in secondary."

A greater emphasis on maths in Britain has been bearing fruit.
A greater emphasis on maths in Britain has been bearing fruit.

Prof Hodgen said that some of the new generation of teachers had been part of the mathematics revolution and they were now better qualified to pass on their knowledge.

There remains a "serious shortage" of maths teachers in secondary schools, he added.

He said that the GCSE exam, which students take at around 16 years of age, had become harder and that was setting higher standards.

Students in the UK start school at four years old, compared with Australia where many children do not start until they are six years old.

Michael Gove, who was the UK's Education Secretary at the time of the reforms in 2014, said the UK would no longer accept wasted human potential.

"People do still say we're being and driving too hard," he said when introducing the reforms.

"That is setting children up to fail and I will not tolerate that."

stephen.drill@news.co.uk



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