HC Deb 22 January 1985 vol 71 cc845-6
3. Mr. Alan Howarth

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science what recent representations he has received concerning methods of teaching mathematics; and if he will make a statement.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Education and Science (Mr. Bob Dunn)

It is now exactly three years since the publication of the Cockcroft report on the teaching of mathematics. We have received many expressions of support for the recommendations of that report, and are continuing to encourage improvements in mathematics education in line with them.

Mr. Howarth

Will my hon. Friend take steps to ensure that, as a result of the proposals by the Inner London education authority to introduce into schools from next September the teaching of what it calls anti-racist mathematics, pupils are not diverted from the proper study of mathematical concepts to the study of tendentious political concepts?

Mr. Dunn

The job of any mathematics teacher anywhere is to teach mathematics as effectively as possible to all his pupils, taking account of their background and experience. It is for individual schools and teachers to decide how best to teach, but their work should never be impeded by the intrusion of a political viewpoint. Mathematics is mathematics whatever the ethnic origin of the child to whom it is taught, and it should be the same for all.

Dr. M. S. Miller

Are not mathematics teachers still among the scarcest commodities in education?

Mr. Dunn

The shortage of qualified mathematics teachers is a long-standing problem, but the position has improved. In recent years the supply of new teachers has been healthier, and there are now many fewer unfilled vacancies.

Mr. Patrick Thompson

Does my hon. Friend agree that the need for improved standards in mathematics teaching, and the need for improved recruitment of mathematics and physics teachers, makes it all the more urgent that the talks on the restructuring of teachers' pay should be successful? Does he further agree that we must be flexible and imaginative in our pursuit of this worthwhile aim?

Mr. Dunn

I am sure that my right hon. Friend has heard what my hon. Friend said. All children need to learn the basic number facts, as the Cockcroft report says. I condemn political interference. It must be condemned, as it cannot in any way be helpful to the children whom it is supposed to serve.