Fianna Fáil Seanad Spokesperson on Education Senator Averil Power has described the Government’s approach to tackling poor maths results as overly-simplistic and ill-conceived.


Senator Power raised the issue during in the Seanad today (Thursday 29th September) and called for a results-based analysis of why some students are getting very poor results in maths.


According to Senator Power, “The Minister’s only real response to the maths crisis so far has been to survey the qualifications of all maths teachers. While this information is useful it will not give him a proper picture of what is really going on in our maths classrooms. Of course all teachers should of course be properly qualified and all new maths teachers should be required to hold a degree in the subject. But academic results alone do not make someone an effective teacher.


“It is quite possible that many of the students getting among the lowest results in maths are being taught by teachers with full degrees in maths but whose teaching skills are drastically in need of improvement. 


“Equally there may be teachers whose original degree was in a subject like engineering but who have availed of in-service training and up-skilling over the years and are effective and motivational educators. Their students may well be doing very well in maths as a result”, she said.


Focus should be on the 100 schools with the worst results 


Senator Power told that the Seanad that “Rather than just collecting data on teacher qualifications from every second level school in the country the Minister needs to get much more detailed information on the 100 schools with the lowest Maths results in the State. For each of these schools, he should then look at issues such as:


–     Whether results are poor in all subjects in the school or just in maths; and

–     Whether the maths results are poor for all classes in the school or just for those being taught by one particular teacher.


“Once he has a proper picture of where exactly the problem is he can then start to identify the cause. Lack of academic qualifications may be one factor but other factors such as poor teaching skills, poor leadership in the school and the standard of maths the students had on transfer from primary school could be just as important.”


The solution must be tailored to the circumstances of each school


Senator Power told the Seanad that “just as the causes may differ from school to school so must the solution be varied to suit the circumstances. Having properly identified the problem, the Department of Education and Skills should ensure that each school has a specific and tailored action plan in place to improve its results.”


She concluded by stressing that “addressing the problem of poor maths results in our schools is an issue of national importance. It deserves a comprehensive, rather than a lazy and tokenistic, response. By diagnosing the problem incorrectly the Minister’s approach is likely to lead to the wrong treatment. Our students deserve better.”