There are a number of groups who have a view of what makes a good mathematics teacher. Pupils, parents,mathematics educators, schools and government are natural commentators on teachers and their skills. Of these, the voice of the government is perhaps the most powerful in the England and Wales through its strict regulation of training programmes (Department for Education and Employment (DfEE), 1998; Welsh Of? ce, 1998) and inspection of schools. The voice of mathematics educators is heard through polemic (Burton, 1992) and research (Simon & Schifter, 1991).
The voices of pupils and of parents are heard informally in the school yard and at the school gates, but little formal research exists. This paper explores the views of schools by examining the material sent to potential candidates for basic grade posts. The material details the attributes the school is seeking through person specications, job descriptions and general descriptive text. Assuming that schools are intending to appoint a good teacher (although there are recruitment problems in many areas), this material should be a re ection of the attributes they value in a mathematics teacher.
This research focuses on state-funded secondary schools in England and Wales who were seeking a basic grade teacher early in 2000. Such posts would be open to recently quali? ed teachers and indeed to those currently in training, who would not be able to take up their post until September 2000, such is the current shortage of mathematics teachers.Material was collected from 80 schools. All but one of these schools was in England. In the UK, the large majority of full-time teaching posts are advertised in a weekly paper called The Times Educational Supplement. When an appropriate post was advertised, a request for details was sent using a pseudonym and a private address.
A self-addressed pre-paid envelope was included whether requested or not. It was decided to collect the information in this covert manner to assure that the material received was identical to that usually produced rather than a modied version for a university-based researcher. Relf and Hobbs (1999) collected material in 1992/3 and 1995/6 from 50 schools. This material was intended for referees and, whilst it contained similar material to this research it pre-dates the new Initial Teacher Training (ITT) regulations, the Career Entry Pro? le (CEP) (Teacher Training Agency (TTA), 2001) and the more rigorous inspection of schools.
The material was sorted to extract material which gave information speci? cally about the attributes of the teacher being sought. Many schools included general information intended for prospective pupils such as details of the buildings and facilities, the management structure and the extra-curricular activities.The material was analysed in a structured and rigorous manner. First, it was read several times until the main themes and categories emerged. Each school’s material was then coded according to these categories and additional categories were added as necessary. A deputy head teacher who was also a mathematics teacher was consulted where there was doubt over the interpret- ation of the content.