Legal threat hots up maths syllabus row

January 10, 1997

A LEADING mathematician has been threatened with legal action by School Curriculum and Assessment Authority chief executive Nick Tate following his vociferous attacks on SCAA's changes to the maths A-level syllabus.

Roger Porkess, project leader of curriculum development body Mathematics in Education and Industry at the University of Plymouth's Centre for Teaching Mathematics has dismissed the legal threat as "over the top" and has pledged to continue his campaign against SCAA's changes to the A-level maths syllabus core, which he believes are being rushed through without proper consultation.

Mr Porkess would not discuss details of the legal threat, saying that he was determined to preserve a sound working relationship with SCAA in the interests of the new maths syllabuses. The dispute centres on a letter Mr Porkess circulated to heads of schools' and colleges' mathematics departments last October, urging them to protest against SCAA's syllabus revision.

In a letter to Mr Porkess, Dr Tate has threatened to "seek legal advice" if he does not receive an assurance from Mr Porkess that "innacurate allegations" will not be repeated. Dr Tate disputes Mr Porkess' claims that changes were being made "in secrecy" and "without proper discussion".

Dr Tate was unavailable to comment, but SCAA assistant chief executive Tony Millns said: "We would very rarely act in this way, but it is difficult to do anything else in these circumstances." The SCAA felt it had been misrepresented.

Meanwhile, Mr Porkess argued this week that the SCAA's report on the Consultation of the Draft Mathematics Core has not heeded complaints it includes from teachers and academics.

SCAA's report admits that only a "minority were in favour of the proposal to require AS and A-level candidates to take at least one paper without the support of a calculator" and that "only a quarter of consultees considered that the proposed 25 per cent of marks for non-calculator papers was appropriate". Despite this, SCAA reaffirmed that "an element of assessment worth at least 25 per cent of the marks and in which no calculator may be used has been retained".

The SCAA report also acknowledges that "a large majority of consultees expressed concern about the proposed 40:60 weighting" between the AS and the A level, which SCAA is again keeping.

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