Early years 'failing' children at maths

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Early years practitioners are ‘failing’ young children over maths skills, a campaign group has said.

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‘Making maths GCSE a requirement for new entrants to the profession will not improve the skills and knowledge of the existing workforce’, the paper says

In a paper published today, the All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) for Maths and Numeracy, says many early years practitioners are ‘mathematically under-qualified and unconfident’.

‘Too many early years settings fail to provide young children with a good start to their maths education,’ it says, while ‘main problems’ are ‘the attitudes, mathematical confidence and understanding of those who work with young children’.

The APPG calls for better training for early years practitioners, including learning about brain development in number ability.

More than a quarter (28%) of children in England failed to achieve the expected level in maths at the end of the early years foundation stage last year.

The paper says, ‘The quality of maths learning varies substantially in early years settings and this often depends on the qualifications and attitudes of the practitioners. Many working with under-5s are mathematically under-qualified and unconfident, with no qualification higher than level 2 … Many also have a negative outlook on maths as a result of their own school experiences.’

While the standard of qualifications of the sector has been a recent focus of policymakers, with a grade C in maths now the minimum requirement for the benchmark Early Years Educator courses, the group notes that, ‘Making maths GCSE a requirement for new entrants to the profession will not improve the skills and knowledge of the existing workforce.’

The paper considers the role of the EYFS, saying it should have an ‘increased focus’ by Government, ‘by emphasising ‘number sense’ in young children.’

It also recommends that parents need more information and support on how to develop their children’s maths skills, and settings should work with them to support children’s development.

Caroline Dinenage, Conservative MP and co-chair, said, ‘Far too many young children in this country struggle with maths and numeracy. This leaves them playing a game of catch up for the rest of their lives; a game most of them end up losing. As this report sets out we need a greater focus on maths and numeracy in the early years. If we can provide children with a good grounding at a young age then we will set them up to succeed in their later studies and their future careers.'

The APPG includes advisors from the Pre-School Learning Alliance, National Day Nurseries Association and TACTYC, as well as co-chair Barry Sheerman MP and former paralympian Baroness Tanni Grey Thompson.

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