In 2009 more than one in five children left primary school having failed to grasp the basic maths skills required by the national curriculum. In a two-part special, Dispatches asks why and how are we failing Britain’s children when it comes to maths.
In the first programme, the Head drafted in maths specialist Richard Dunne. Children who had previously struggled with maths thrived under his programme, which taught them how to understand abstract concepts and relate sums to the real world, and gave them lots of opportunities to repeat the basics so they could be memorised. But as their SAT’s approached, under pressure to improve results, the Head temporarily set aside Dunne’s methods.
The SAT’s are over but many of the children have lost enthusiasm for the subject and still do not have a grasp of the basic building blocks for maths. Dunne returns to Barton Hill to help the children with their mental arithmetic, joined by Countdown presenter Rachel Riley, who visits the school to help encourage the children to tackle their maths demons. Sitting in on a maths lesson, Riley is shocked that many of the children struggle to do sums in their heads and do not know their times tables. In a bid to inspire the children in a subject she feels passionate about, she organises a ‘children versus adults’ Countdown competition at the school.