The year 2000 has been designated by UNESCO as world mathematics year and the UK's national maths year will complement it.
Mr Hain said: 'Numeracy is an essential skill which many people are uncomfortable with and I welcome the opportunity for Wales to contribute to the collective effort to place numeracy under the spotlight in the UK. An inability to work with numbers can make everyday life difficult and we want to change attitudes and help adults and children to develop the maths skills they need.
'Children need to be numerate in the fullest sense - comfortable with mental mathematics as well as with computers but with less reliance on an inappropriate use of calculators.
2. 'It is encouraging to see from the annual report for 1997-98 published last week by the chief inspector of schools in Wales that schools are making steady progress towards this goal. The chief inspector did however also draw attention to some of the areas of weakness that will need to be tackled if we are to reach our targets.
'I have already announced that£2m will be available next year to target numeracy in primary schools. We are beginning to give schools the tools they will need to make a difference. I look to the LEAs in Wales to develop LEA literacy strategies that will support the work in schools. We will expect them to focus in particular on the areas of weakness identified by the chief inspector. Schools and LEAs will, therefore, need to place greater emphasis on:
-improving children's recall of number facts;-developing mental arithmetic skills and strategies for solving problems;-reducing reliance on inappropriate use of calculators; -placing greater emphasis on opportunities to develop numeracy across the curriculum; and -a focus on instruction through direct teaching.
'We will publish numeracy framework for Wales shortly that will provide more detailed guidance.
'But our vision for a more numerate nation will not be achieved by schools alone. Improving basic numeracy is a key focus of our policy for lifelong learning. We are also expanding family numeracy schemes so that next year these will be operating in every area of Wales.
'Maths Year 2000 is for everyone in the community and adults and children alike have an important part to play - whether they are good at maths or not. We want to promote full community involvement and look to businesses to play their part in contributing to the campaign. The Year will, however, only be a beginning. We will need to go on giving a laser-like focus to numeracy if we are truly going to make a difference.
National Maths Year 2000 will be a UK initiative involving education departments in each of the home counties.
The Welsh Office/OHMCI Numeracy Framework will be published shortly. It will contain detailed guidance for schools and LEAs. Under the terms of the framework every school in Wales will be expected to:
-review its approach to the teaching of numeracy in the light of evidence and guidance in the Numeracy Framework
-have a numeracy strategy in place that has classroom skills as its primary focus
-set stretching targets for improvement.
LEA numeracy strategies will be expected to be prepared in consultation with schools, to reflect local circumstances and to be sensitive to local needs but should seek to:
- raise average levels of attainment
- reduce the gap between the best and the worst performing schools;
- reduce the number of schools where fewer than half the 11 year old
pupils reach the level expected for their age.