Style guru hopes Shanghai chic will replace ‘inefficient’ methods, but these still persist.

Janet Downs's picture
Schools minister Nick Gibb, style guru of education trends, said modes of teaching maths such as the grid method of multiplication were ‘inefficient’. He told the Education Bill Committee ‘good’ schools use Shanghai Maths.

In England this trend is better known as Mastery Maths. Research found this helped Year 1 pupils make a ‘small amount more progress’ than their peers in schools which didn’t follow it. However, the effect was ‘not statistically significant’ and the researchers could not ‘rule out chance as an explanation’.

Despite the widespread promotion of Shanghai chic, a large number of popular primary school textbooks advocate using the grid method of multiplication to aid understanding before moving to more abstract procedures.* The grid method is also advocated by the National Stem Centre and the National Centre for Excellence in the Teaching of Mathematics. It even appears in a Department for Education promotional video.

Another trend loudly promoted by this style guru is ‘phonics’. Here, however, the message is confused. Is it ‘synthetic’ or ‘systematic’ or just plain ‘phonics’, any method taught any-old-how? It appears the guru leans towards the first of these – matched funding was made available for schools to buy synthetic phonics materials. But then he talks about ‘systematic’ phonics which evidence shows is an effective method teaching reading. However, it’s not confined to synthetic phonics but includes other methods – the key is teaching the chosen method in a systematic manner.

In any case, phonics was already embedded in English schools before Gibb pushed it. He has just announced the establishment of eight reading hubs which will each receive £10,000 to promote phonics. Heads, however, query why £80,000 is being spent to promote something which is a classic fashion staple. Tony Draper, president of the NAHT, told Schools Week, ‘Phonics is a very valuable tool – but it is not the only tool… They [the Government] should be putting more effort into learning more about the outcomes of other methods of teaching reading, so that all children have access to varied approaches to learning how to read.’

Of course, if schools wish to follow the trend for Shanghai chic, then this is their prerogative. Schools must have the freedom to choose methods which they feel are the best for their own pupils. But there should be no implication that schools using what the style guru claims are inefficient methods are not ‘good’ schools.

*See here and here for examples of schemes of work linked to two education publishers.
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A Cooper's picture
Mon, 20/07/2015 - 07:36

I look forward teaching the Shanghai chic systematic, synthetic reading scheme.

Guest's picture
Mon, 20/07/2015 - 15:46

These articles were published in Mar this year and highlight well the issues (and even lack of wisdom) involved in trying to lift and implement another nations methodology lock stock and barrel into ours. However, several of the readers comments in the second (presumably follow-up article) are perhaps even more incisive than the journalist's:

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