Cost of the Holiday Maths Challenges: FOI release

Information request and response under the Freedom of Information (Scotland) Act 2002.

FOI reference: FOI/18/01078
Date received: 28 March 2018
Date responded: 9 April 2018

Information requested

Costs associated with the Holiday Maths Challenges


In response to your questions about cost, please note that the content of the Holiday Maths Challenges is developed by the Scottish Mathematical Council at no cost as part of their organisational objective to foster and improve mathematical education at all levels. Numeracy and mathematics primary leads at Education Scotland provide input to ensure that the content, design and text is accessible and aligns with the benchmarks. The Numeracy and Mathematics Team at the Scottish Government arranges design, print and distribution through the APS Group which is the contracted provider for such services. Costs for the Christmas Challenge were £15,957 and for the Easter Challenge were £29,125 (more expensive largely due to the postage costs attached to the heavier paper and increased circulation to libraries and school holiday clubs). These costs were met from the Scottish Government programme budget attached to the implementation of recommendations from the Making Maths Count report.

There are no costs attached to publishing online, promotion through social media or sending emails to parent and teacher networks other than minimal staff time. While creating an online-only resource would save on costs we are keen that access to the internet isn't a barrier to participation, nor that teachers are expected to print and photocopy additional materials.

There a number of drivers that underpin the creation of this initiative. The National Profile- Raising Group for Mathematics identifies transforming public attitudes to maths as one of the key themes in their Making Maths Count report and are keen that maths is promoted as something to enjoy outside the classroom for children and adults. The enthusiasm that was generated for maths puzzles and challenges, and for engaging families, during Maths Week Scotland was evident from social media, visits and events that Ministers and Scottish Government officials were part of, as well as overall feedback during and following the Week. Mr Swinney was keen to maintain some that momentum and activity from the centre, as well as acknowledging the range of activity that went on locally. The National Improvement Framework identifies parental involvement as one of the 6 key components of improvement and the National Parent Forum Scotland's review of parental involvement generated a range of recommendations which the Scottish Government are currently considering. A draft 5 year national action plan on parental involvement, engagement and family learning is currently underway in response to this. Read, Write, Count currently provides resources for numeracy home learning for primary 1-3 and we were keen to try to provide resources for older primary children.

This initiative isn't designed to 'solve' wider issues around numeracy and mathematics attainment. It aims to ensure that there are resources provided to encourage and support family learning over the main school term holidays without expecting every school to create separate materials. The covering material to schools has been clear that it hopes to embed within existing family learning programmes where they exist, and is intended to supplement and complement school-based activity. I'm sorry that you feel it patronises and undermines the vast and rich activity that goes on in schools and communities to deliver equity and excellence in maths learning and teaching. Mr Swinney is very aware of the depth and breadth of quality and inspiring learning and teaching in classrooms across Scotland – in maths and all other aspects of the curriculum.

Your feedback is genuinely useful and the question of impact is clearly something that we're keen to assess. We'll be formally evaluating impact based on engagement, participation and attitudes later in 2018 once at least one further Challenge has issued.

In terms of developing the concept, views were sought from a range of education leaders and practitioners as well as the National Parent Forum Scotland and support was widespread. Feedback on the actual initiative has been informal so far and has provided a range of views; while there has been support and appreciation for the initiative, there has also been suggestions that there should not be any 'homework' over the holidays, and a view that some of the content was too challenging. All views received so far will feature in the assessment on whether the Holiday Maths Challenges are adding value to numeracy and maths education and family learning.

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