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Posted on: 20/12/2018

Mr Connell's China visit

China Visit 2Loreto Grammar School Maths teacher David Connell has just returned from a special mission to Shanghai to examine the secrets of their successful Maths teaching. 
 
He was just one of 16 secondary teachers nationwide to make the trip and will now be continuing his role to disseminate what he learned to fellow teaching professionals across South Manchester and beyond. 
 
David, 45, who is Second in Maths at Loreto, has been responsible for implementing the teaching method ‘Mastery” over the last 15 months at the leading Altrincham Catholic grammar. 
 
Shanghai is the first region worldwide to fully implement the pedagogy and is now recognised as one of the planet’s leading exponents of Maths teaching, with statistics showing their methods produce the best results in the most pupils drawn from all backgrounds. 
 
He visited the Chinese metropolis of some 27 million people courtesy of the National Centre for Excellence in the Teaching of Mathematics (NCETM) and has been inspired by what he witnessed. 
 
He said: “I saw the best Maths lesson I have ever seen during my 22-year teaching career in Shanghai and though it was conducted in Chinese, the Maths simply shone through, it was that good.” 
 
He said: “They began their programme 30 years ago starting in primary schools, where unlike in Britain they employ Maths specialists. 
 
“Their Maths curriculum is led by their universities and institutes of education and has been so clearly defined that at the same moment children right across the city will most likely be studying exactly the same lesson content. 
 
“This illustrates the Mastery principle of ‘Coherence’, which demands the subject be taught step by step by careful step and that a student’s knowledge accumulates and builds on strong foundations. 
 
David, who is married with one two-year-old child and lives in Gatley, continued: “There is a myth that Chinese teaching is very regimented and stifles creativity. I didn’t see that. I saw very happy children laughing and joking before the lesson, but then fully focused on the lesson for the full 40 minutes”. 
 
“The teacher was at the centre of the learning but acting as a conduit, not teaching basic procedures and asking the children to learn by rote but demanding a deeper conceptual understanding. 
“This in turn meant children were not afraid to make mistakes and, indeed, of course, they did, but those were usually made at the start of the lesson and most often not repeated, as they were challenged to learn from their mistakes and work together towards a correct solution.” 
 
He added: “We cannot simply try to replicate exactly what Shanghai does; they have a different educational culture, many aspects of which would not work in England, but we can learn from their example. 
 
“It is no quick fix. I don’t expect to see dramatically improved results at the end of Year 7 but I do believe that we will produce significantly better young mathematicians by the end of Year 11.” 
 
Loreto already enjoys some of the best GCSE Maths results nationwide but Headteacher Jane Beever said: “A fundamental element of our philosophy is that no matter how well you are doing something or, indeed how well you think you are doing something, there is always room for improvement.” 
 
In January Loreto will be hosting two senior Maths teachers from Shanghai in the return leg of the Exchange and are inviting Maths teachers from schools across the region to witness and discuss their ideas. 

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