Advisory Committee on Mathematics Education (ACME)

ACME's new report - Beginning teaching: best in class?

13 November 2015

ACME has published its latest report, Beginning teaching: best in class?. It looks at what high-quality initial teacher education (ITE) for teachers of mathematics should look like.

Robert Barbour, Chair of the ACME ITE Working Group said: 'Everyone is in agreement that improving the mathematical skills of young people in England is essential. Only with high-quality teachers will we achieve this goal. We need opportunities for trainee teachers to become both confident with mathematics and skilled in how to teach it.  Ten years of patient work is needed to move England nearer to the top of the class as regards ITE. We cannot afford to get this wrong. Without the teachers, everything else is built on sand.'

To get and keep high-quality teachers of mathematics it is imperative that all those involved in ITE and those supporting newly qualified teachers have a shared understanding of what constitutes high-quality mathematics-specific ITE. A review of international jurisdictions showed an emphasis on mathematics-specific training and mathematics-specific mentoring, strong linkages between professional development and ITE and an investment in critical evaluation skills during and after ITE.

Looking at England, it is clear that while there is good practice in relation to some of these elements, there should be more consistency across ITE courses, irrespective of the ITE route taken. The report calls on ITE providers, senior leaders and the mathematics community to articulate a shared standard for the ITE of teachers of mathematics. In some cases, for example the provision of Subject Knowledge Enhancement (SKE) courses and mathematics-specific mentoring, regulation and accreditation is required.

Robert Barbour, added: 'Although Ofsted reports suggest that the vast majority of ITE provision is good, ACME's analysis suggests that there are inconsistencies in mathematics-specific provision and the support structures provided. We hope that all of those involved in providing and supporting ITE provision for teachers of mathematics will sign up to the principles and recommendations ACME has identified so as to ensure that all mathematics teachers are ready for the challenges they'll meet.

We need to be much clearer about the subject knowledge appropriate to enter ITE and the mathematics-specific knowledge and teaching skills that should be gained during ITE. We need to agree on a system for mathematics-specific mentoring and identify how best to embed critical evaluation skills in ITE. We also need to better align ITE and professional development, as many international jurisdictions have done.'

ACME sets out principles about the standard required in order to equip teachers of mathematics with the skills they will need. Although some of these would be a challenge for ITE providers and schools, ACME believes that these are a modest step towards achieving the best practice seen internationally.

In the final section of its report, ACME identifies some challenges to ITE and argues that a long-term and overarching strategic plan for the ITE of teachers of mathematics is required.

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