Mathematics education in schools is improving despite recruitment challenges

Ofsted has today published a subject report looking at how mathematics is being taught in England’s schools

It draws on evidence from subject visits to a sample of primary and secondary schools.

The report found that the overall picture of maths education is now broadly more positive than it was 11 years ago when we last published a report on maths education. This is the result of the commitment of school leaders and teachers. School leaders are focused on delivering a high-quality maths curriculum. They, and programmes such as Maths Hubs, are giving teachers opportunities to develop their subject teaching knowledge. As a result, high-quality continuing professional development for many maths teachers is a particular strength in England’s schools. It enables teachers to teach with clarity and precision, helping pupils understand new concepts.

Read the ‘Mathematics education in schools: maths subject report’.

The report also notes areas where improvements could be made. In some secondary schools, pupils are not given opportunities to master foundational mathematical knowledge because teaching is over-focused on exam success. Some pupils are rushed through new content too quickly. The report also highlights that challenges in recruiting and retaining specialist teachers are making it more difficult for schools to give a high-quality maths education.

His Majesty’s Chief Inspector, Amanda Spielman, said:

"Mathematics is a core part of every school curriculum. It provides children with the tools they need to understand the world and lays the foundation for a range of disciplines and professions.

"Despite sector-wide recruitment challenges, the picture for maths education in England has continued to improve. I hope that our recommendations are useful for subject leaders and teachers when constructing a challenging and engaging maths curriculum."

The report makes a variety of recommendations for how schools can ensure that all pupils become more proficient in maths, including:

  • Developing a curriculum that emphasises secure learning of maths knowledge and prepares pupils for transitions between key stages.
  • Ensuring that teachers routinely check that pupils have secure understanding of foundational maths and address any gaps before moving to the next stage of learning.
  • Making sure that teachers regularly connect new learning to what pupils have learned before and ensure that pupils consolidate new learning.
  • Providing continuing professional development for teaching assistants, and other adults working with pupils, to help them understand the intended maths curriculum.

All subject visits were carried out between September 2021 and November 2022.