On reading this report initially I had two recurring questions:
- Why has there been no formal in-depth study commissioned by the DfES or National Numeracy Strategy (NNS) to monitor and evaluate the teaching and learning implications of the NNS after its implementation, which could have been included in this study?
- How can practising teachers better contribute their experiences to educational research?
Neither of these questions was addressed by the review, nor should they have been, but they are prompted by what I was asked to consider in writing my practitioner report. The review set out to consider available research evidence in order to determine if the Daily Numeracy Lesson had helped pupils to develop confidence and competence in early mathematics. It does so systematically by using an understandable and transparent methodology and structure to identify studies which bear upon the stated topic. Given the enormity of the task and the expense of introducing a nationwide mathematics strategy, one would have expected that all aspects of its implementation would have been studied rigorously, including the impact on pupil confidence and competence over a period of time, and yet only 18 qualifying studies were identified which dealt with these issues for Key Stage One pupils. There is much emphasis in schools on pupil progress in mathematics, as measured by the narrow parameters of right and wrong answers in national tests, but this study has quite rightly drawn attention to the paucity of valid research on the wider implications of the NNS, and its potential impact on the emotional well-being of pupils, as well as to the studies which have been undertaken. It is crucial that pupils' self-esteem and confidence in mathematics are not sacrificed to the short-term goals of schools striving to meet ill-conceived Government targets, and this arena needs to be fully researched.
In order to be considered useful, a review of this nature will provide or synthesise findings on a subject and make it possible for readers to consider their own thoughts or experiences about the subject in respect of the conclusions drawn. Access to the information in this review will inevitably impact on practice, in varying degrees, for the reflective teacher. Any practising primary teachers who read this review will be provoked to think about their teaching of mathematics in the daily lesson, and to consider the effectiveness of their practice in building pupils' confidence and competence. In particular, the concept of 'interactive teaching' is strongly challenged. In this respect it will be a useful resource to those who gain access to it and may create in teachers an interest in contributing to the field of educational research. It was disappointing, therefore, to find in the review that the short-lived, Government-funded, Best Practice Research Scholarships had not produced any research reports which were adequately detailed and evidenced for this study. Teachers are in an ideal position to correlate the summative results of formal tests with their knowledge of pupil confidence and use of strategic thinking in mathematics but may not have had access to sufficient training or support networks to be focused and effective researchers.
If policy is to be influenced by this review it may well be in the areas outlined above; that good quality research should follow an initiative into practice, and that initiatives themselves should be clearly thought out in respect of their aims and implications for all involved.
The writer, Anne O'Connor, is an Advanced Skills Primary School Teacher at Wilberfoss Primary School, Wilberfoss, York. She has no connection with the Review Group. This 'perspective' is written in a personal capacity.