DfE has 'questions' to answer over maths textbook scheme

DfE has 'questions' to answer over maths textbook scheme

Colin Hughes, chair of the Publishers Association's Education Publishers Council, has called into question the Department for Education's (DfE) method of evaluating textbooks for its South Asian maths teaching programme, after just one textbook was approved for the scheme.

The programme promises £41m in DfE funding for primary schools in England over the next four years to support the South Asian "maths mastery” approach - including offering to match individual schools’ spending on textbooks up to £2,000, if they select a textbook from a recommended list.

At least six publishers, including Pearson, have been unsuccessful in gaining DfE endorsement for their books. So far only one textbook, from specialist independent Maths - No Problem!, has been approved.

Colin Hughes, m.d. of Collins Learning and EPC chair, said there were "questions" he wanted to put to the DfE about "the equity of the process". He also revealed he has sought legal advice as chair of the PA's Education Publishers Council and is currently trying to get a meeting with the DfE to discuss the issues publishers have had in clarifying the criteria of the approval decision, with no guidelines readily available on the appeals process.

The Shanghai Maths Project uses converted content from workbooks in Shanghai, which is then adapted for the national curriculum. Hughes said the grounds on which it was rejected "don't stand up - even according to the panel's own criteria".

He said: "We have all had to submit the same evidence. The issue is not that the process is heavy duty... The real issue is they have applied a definition of what is and isn't a textbook that wasn't in the original criteria. I don't know about the others, but [in our case] I do think that one of key things is that the panel has adopted a very narrow definition of what a textbook looks like, and so it never had any prospect of being approved." 

He added: "There are questions we have to ask the DfE about the equity of this process. As chair of the EPC at the PA, I can say we are currently trying to get a meeting with the department. We have taken legal advice on the equity of the process and we want an explanation of these criteria and to find out how they stand up, and to know whether there will be further guidance for the second round. They asked us if we want to appeal; but what is the appeals process? They are currently pressing on before hearing what we've got to say about it.

"To me it seems disappointing the department finds itself unable to approve more than one textbook when we are very confident of our products in UK primary schools."

A spokesperson for the DfE said on Monday (14th August): "The textbooks were assessed against a clear set of criteria and judged by an expert panel. There will be another opportunity for publishers to submit textbooks later this year and we plan to publish an updated list early next year.”