CHARLES GRAHAM - Back to basics in schools

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MATHS was never one of my stronger subjects at school.

All that algebra and calculus left me completely bewildered, partly because I don’t think my brain’s particularly well wired up to make sense of it all and partly because no-one ever explained what the relevance of these subject areas were.

The arithmetic I did “get” and had the times tables drummed into me from an early age. That rote learning ensured that the sums are still in my head to this day and come in handy every so often.

My 10-year-old son, I’m pleased to say, can out-calculate me, his school insisting that pupils learn their 13, 14 and 15-times tables too!

Sadly, some other schools have rather lost their way with these basics, latest reports showing that many firms are having to subject new recruits to three Rs “pre-training” when taking them on to compensate for their lack of skills.

Britain is also falling further behind its developed world rivals in maths performance.

Good news then that education secretary Michael Gove is calling for schools to get back to these fundamentals of education.

I appreciate that the curriculum is rather more crowded than when I was a child (even with foreign languages and history given less prominence than of yore), but you really need a grip on the basics before you can do much else.