Pupils have weak numeracy skills in about two-fifths of primary schools and half of secondary schools that were inspected in 2010-2012, according to inspectorate Estyn.
While a majority of pupils are able to measure and use data, many lack basic number skills and cannot easily recall key number facts such as how to multiply.
The inspectorate’s report, Numeracy in Key Stages 2 and 3: A baseline study, examines how a sample of primary and secondary schools are developing pupils’ numeracy skills across the curriculum.
Inspectors will revisit the same schools over the next two years and report on what progress has been made in improving pupils’ numeracy skills. The study will also focus on how well schools have implemented the Welsh government’s Literacy and Numeracy Framework and examine its impact.
Ann Keane, chief inspector, said: “Numeracy is still a cause for concern in schools. We know that many schools have not given as much attention to numeracy as they have done for literacy, but it is vital that schools have clear plans for developing numeracy skills. The plans need to address young people’s weak numeracy skills so that they can do mental arithmetic, grasp numerical reasoning and don’t have to rely on a calculator.
Looking to the future she added: “We know that change will not happen overnight. Estyn’s study over the next two years will track the progress made by our sample of schools and report on the implementation and impact of the new Literacy and Numeracy Framework.”
Estyn recommends that schools urgently address pupils’ difficulty with basic number skills and put in place a whole-school approach to boosting numeracy skills and monitoring progress. It is also calling on local authorities to support teachers in improving their knowledge, skills and confidence in teaching numeracy skills.