Is England moving closer to having pupils taught maths through “state-approved” textbooks, modelled on those used in China and Singapore? That is the fear among some attendees of a meeting earlier this month, when the DfE told education publishers it wanted to see the introduction of a “quality framework” against which maths textbooks could be assessed.
One version of what this might look like has already been devised by the government-funded National Centre for Excellence in the Teaching ofMathematics. Now, under pressure from ministers, publishing organisations are working on their own version.
The move is being driven by Nick Gibb, the traditionalist schools minister running curriculum policy, following a paper published last November by Tim Oates, head of research at the exam body Cambridge Assessment. Oates argued that the quality of England’s textbooks has declined since the 1970s. Favourably citing Singapore, where textbooks are “state-approved”, he seemed to advocate such a structure here, saying publishers would have to raise their game to fulfil government expectations of the quality of their materials.
Ministers, who have set up a network of “maths hubs” around England which are welcoming visiting teachers from China, are impressed by textbooks used in the Far East.
Publishers hope that a voluntary code will assuage Gibb, who wants English schools to match the Pacific Rim in global education league tables. But the threat of a formal government approval process for maths textbooks still also seems to be around in the background.