NNS + £55m = more books?

<p>
A year after primary schools introduced the Literacy Hour as part of the government's National Literacy Strategy, attention has turned to numeracy with the start this September of the daily maths lesson in primary schools across the country. Dubbed "Numeracy Hour", it forms part of the government's National Numeracy Strategy (NNS), but its introduction has not had quite the same impact on schools and the publishing industry as that of the Literacy Hour. Publishers have been working hard to meet the new requirements of the daily maths lesson. But are schools in any position to buy the new books? Caroline Horn reports</p><p>

In many ways, the introduction of the daily maths lesson has been easier than its predecessor. Schools have not, for example, been subjected to the same kinds of pressures and deadlines experienced in the run-up to the Literacy Hour, when teachers were given money to spend on books, but complained that they had little guidance on what to buy, insufficient time to spend the funds and inadequate preparation for the actual lessons.

This time, it seems to be the publishers that have been up against tight deadlines and a shortage of information. Government guidelines for the Numeracy Hour were not available until February this year. By the summer, a number of publishers had already reworked their maths texts ready for the new lesson in September, but even then they did not know whether schools would be given additional funding for textbooks linked to the new framework.</p><p>
The emphasis has been on training rather than book provision; much of the &pound;55m budget for schools and numeracy, awarded in May this year, has been spent on teacher training. As a result, schools have been preparing for the daily maths lesson since Easter, and teacher training will be ongoing over the next three years. While training was also an element of the preparation for the Literacy Hour, many have commented that it has been more comprehensive for numeracy.</p><p>
And with tangible results. Clare Painter, maths co-ordinator at the South Farnham School and leading maths teacher> for Surrey, says: "Schools seem to have found the introduction of the Numeracy Hour to be relatively smooth compared to the Literacy Hour, and one of the reasons is that the training has been very good."</p><p>

Onus on training</p><p>
Anita Straker, director of the NNS at the National Centre for Literacy and Numeracy, feels that there is good reason for this shift in emphasis for numeracy. "The priority has been training, because teachers do not always feel confident about teaching mathematics. For many teachers, mathematics is not part of their more advanced qualifications and they need to know more." As for resources, the Centre thinks that it is more important that funding is put towards new blackboards and teaching aids than textbooks.</p><p>

But support from educational publishers is still welcomed, says Ms Straker. "We don't expect primary teachers to invent everything for themselves." But there are caveats. She explains: "The real problem is that more and more publishers are producing materials that provide for five lessons a day, 35 weeks of the school year. That is not helpful, it just stops teachers thinking for themselves. Having lessons planned like that means that they stop assessing how children are getting on and don't adjust their teaching accordingly."

Stephen Ashton, project director for the Oxford University Press series, Oxford Maths Zone, agrees that there has been some over-dependence in classrooms on children going through pages of sums. But he suggests this may have more to do with the way teachers teach than with how texts have been developed. While the focus needs to be on proactive teaching, he argues that, "this is not easy; you need books and resources to facilitate those teaching methods".</p><p>
The Educational Publishers Council (EPC) described the changes in its 1998 report, Resourcing the Numeracy Hour, which explored the level of provision that schools believed they would need in order to implement the NNS. The compiler, Keith Nettle, stated: "For the majority of primary schools, the NNS represents a radical change, both organisationally and in terms of content. Older course materials in widespread use will become effectively redundant next September, and schools will be faced with a great problem if no support is available to help them re-equip themselves with material purpose-made for the NNS."</p><p>
One of the main issues for teachers and publishers is the implication of whole-class, interactive teaching. Mr Ashton explains: "Teachers now have to teach, as well as listen to the whole class as a group. That is fine. The problem, when you are working together as a class doing mental arithmetic, is to what extent you work with the brighter kids, or work with the children with lower attainment levels? How do you ensure that you cover the core syllabus?" OUP says that its Oxford Maths Zone has been developed with issues such as these in mind.</p><p>
Collins Educational launched the first titles in its new scheme in the summer: Collins Primary Maths is aligned to the revised methodology of the new framework. Collins has also added to its existing scheme, Steps Mathematics, which already supports a whole-class teaching approach. Editorial director Linden Harris says: "I think that a lot of schools will have to re-resource; their existing material simply won't be aligned to the new methodology. So, in the medium term, I think they will have to replace existing schemes. I don't want to draw attention away from training, but training has to be supported with resources."</p><p>
Slow take up</p><p>
At this stage, however, schools are not rushing out to buy the new materials. Books for Students says that it has seen interest in its Numeracy Boxesmtitles for younger children with numeracy-related themes but that despite the interest shown by teachers, sales and marketing director David Lindley says that schools are not yet investing in these books.</p><p>

As well as OUP and Collins, Heinemann and Stanley Thornes have produced new courses designed specifically for the NNS. Heinneman preferred not to comment on sales, but other companies were more forthcoming. Ms Harris at Collins says that, rather than increasing, maths spend has remained consistent with previous years. "We did see a bit of an upturn in the past few months," she adds, "but that was more to top up existing resources. There is some evaluation of new resources, but schools are looking more to fill gaps in existing resources and to spend on supplementary materials."

Some publishers are concentrating on support materials rather than on core texts. Andrew Brodie Publications in Wellington, Surrey, for example, has produced photocopiable resources for classrooms called Numeracy Today. Thomas Nelson &amp; Sons has developed a range of interactive resources including games, activity mats and Daily Warm-Ups for the mental maths exercises. The company is one of the few educational publishers that has decided not to enter the hugely competitive market of course books for the daily maths lesson. Instead, it has published a Correlations Guide, relating the new edition of its Nelson Maths to the NNS. However, unit director Julia Stanton points out that the Nelson title has been devised for teachers who are very confident about mathematics teaching. Those who are less confident may want the greater support that maths schemes can offer.</p><p>
For teachers, who started working with the new methods less than three months ago, it is still too early to assess the schemes that are available and to judge which are suitable for their classrooms. Investing in maths resources does not come cheap one is looking at around &pound;300 for a new mathematics programme for a class of 30 children so schools will invest infrequently, and only once they are sure what to buy. The EPC estimates that a three-form entry junior school will need nearly &pound;6,300 to resource the NNS courses.</p><p>
Ms Painter says that the South Farnham School plans, for the time being, to continue using its existing Cambridge Maths scheme, although the school has ordered a large number of resources to supplement its existing texts and believes it can deliver the course using these materials. But she agrees that, even though the school can deliver the framework using these resources, it will need to replace its core maths schemes. "Once there is a comprehensive scheme available, we will be looking to invest." Ms Painter expects to take up to a year to research what is available. The school knows it will have to budget around &pound;7,000 to replace its maths texts that is on top of the &pound;2,000 it has already spent on additional resources for the daily maths lesson.</p><p>
Other publishers are waiting until later on in the academic year to bring their new materials to the market. Ben Cameron, marketing manager at the Collins &amp; Brown> Publishing Group, says: "We knew that there would be a lot of titles brought out immediately prior to the introduction of the Numeracy Hour, but we have decided to develop our materials more slowly and with input from numeracy advisors." He also suggests that, as a result of the huge sums recently invested in books for the Literacy Hour, schools are unwilling to direct more of their resources into new books immediately.</p><p>
In the summer, Belitha Press (part of the C&amp;B Group) will publish a range under the series title of Adventures in Numeracy, covering basic beginners (four to five years) and slightly older children, eight to 10 years. "These books can be used in conjunction with core textbooks, and can be used at home, too," says Ben Cameron.</p><p>

Increase in parental interest</p><p>
Trade publishers also hope that sales of numeracy titles will pick up through the trade with the start of the Maths Year 2000 in January. Lesley Agnew, manager of the Children's Bookshop in Muswell Hill, London, has already noticed increased interest from parents in numeracy titles, and sales of work books have risen along with those of picture books with numeracy-related themes.</p><p>

Next year looks rosier, too, for educational publishers, following the government's recent announcements on funding. During the next academic year, schools can expect to receive funding for numeracy and literacy-related titles. John Davies, director of the EPC, comments: "The Standards Fund grant for 2000/2001 makes reference to books under various headings. What it means is that around &#163;5m will be made available to schools for books for literacy." Last year some &#163;19m was given to schools from the school Standards Fund specifically for books for literacy.

Funding for numeracy-related titles is also being made available during 2000/2001. During the last academic year, schools were told that they could spend part of the &pound;55m allocated to the daily maths lesson on books, although as Mr Davies points out: "While they mentioned that part of that grant may be spent on books, it was not earmarked for books in the way that it was for the literacy fund. Books were included under the umbrella of the numeracy grant."</p><p>
Next April, however, primary schools will receive an additional &pound;19.2m from the Standards Fund for numeracy, of which one-third may be spent on books. "Each primary school is being told that it may spend up to &pound;365 on books, although schools do not have to spend that money on books," explains Mr Davies. The timing of this is significantmschools are either completing or in the process of compiling an audit of their resources, so will be much better placed in the next few months to know what materials they need. However, as the EPC's own figures show, that money is fairly insignificant compared to the thousands of pounds schools will need to spend to replace their core maths texts.</p><p>
The EPC is "reasonably hopeful" that there will be additional funding for numeracy titles from other government departments funding is not reliant on the Standards Fund alone. The reason for this optimism is the launch of Maths Year 2000 in January. When the government announced the National Year of Reading in September 1998, it was keen to be seen to give concrete support to this in the form of allowances for books. But where numeracy titles are concerned, Mr Davies comments, "It just depends how much spare money there is. Education is high up in the pecking order, but it is very conjectural at this stage." Once again, it is a question of "wait and see". </p><p>
</p>