Student Teachers Raise Fears Over Numeracy Skills

10 May 2017, 15:28

Teacher with Blackboard

Trainee primary teachers are graduating without sufficient skills to teach maths to P7 pupils, MSPs have been told.

The time devoted to the basics of literacy and numeracy on teacher training courses was among a raft of concerns outlined by trainee teachers at Holyrood's Education Committee.

The committee was taking evidence from the trainees as part of its inquiry into workforce planning in schools.

One student teacher said only one week of his university course had been given over to literacy while another described a lack of focus on ensuring teachers have the skills to teach numeracy.

Halla Price, who is in her final year of a BEd at Moray House, said: ''I think that literacy, what we got taught in first year, the fundamentals of reading and writing, was very valuable.

''What we were taught then was just reiterated (in subsequent years).''

She added: ''In terms of numeracy, we spent a lot of time going over ideas of activities we could do.

''However, there wasn't enough focus on the teachers themselves having the skills to teach numeracy other than a maths audit we completed ourselves in second year, which did very little in all honesty to improve our own knowledge and mathematical understanding.

''I do not believe that everyone graduating from Moray House this year has the sufficient skills in numeracy to be able to teach it to 11-year-olds at a reasonable standard.''

William MacLeod, who is studying a postgraduate course to become a secondary technology teacher, said: ''The problem that we have at the university that I am currently attending - the likes of literacy, there would be a single week where we would focus on literacy - that would be it, one week.''

He added: ''I think literacy I would have less of an issue with, because literacy is being worked on throughout when we are doing essays, etc.

''I would have more of an issue with numeracy because there is less chance for the university lecturers to see that we are numerate.''

''Going back to the basics on these would be helpful.''

The comments follow the publication of new figures on literacy in schools which show a decline in writing standards.

The Scottish Survey of Literacy and Numeracy (SSLN) looked at performance in school years P4, P7 and S2, focusing on literacy in 2016.

It found 49% of S2 pupils performed very well or well in writing last year, compared with 55% in 2014 and 64% in 2012. P4 and P7 pupils also saw a drop in performance.

The survey focused on numeracy in 2015 and found a drop in performance among P4 pupils, with 66% performing well, compared with 69% in 2013 and 76% in 2011.

P7 performance remained at 66% in 2015 from 2013 figures, down from 72% in 2011. In S2, 40% of pupils performed well, down from 42% in 2013.

The committee's evidence session came after almost 700 trainees, teachers and other school staff responded to its questionnaire seeking their experiences on recruitment and retention, with issues such as workload, stress levels and morale raised in the responses.