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The importance of numeracy #NationalNumeracyDay

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Numeracy has been hailed as a key contributing factor to developmental growth around the globe. School enrolment saw a boost in numeracy in countries that implemented universal education. Despite moving to ever more sophisticated forms of computing and money management, numeracy remains integral to everyday life in the 21st century.

To mark National Numeracy Day on 18 May, Jonathan Haley, Head of Appeals at NHS Resolution, tells us about his experience as Chair of the Academy Council of a Primary School and the importance of numeracy in life and early education.

Jonathan, please tell us about your background and how you ended up working in Primary Care Appeals at NHS Resolution

I was working for the Yorkshire Regional Health Authority at the time and became aware of a vacancy at the then Family Health Services Appeal Unit. I saw this as a great opportunity, initially joining in an administrative role before being promoted to Business Services Manager and more recently to Head of Appeals. Primary Care Appeals is one of NHS Resolution’s four services and it offers an impartial resolution service for the fair handling of primary care disputes.

What is your role at NHS Resolution now?

As Head of Appeals, I support the Director and Deputy Director of Practitioner Performance Advice and Primary Care Appeals in strategic decision making with regard to the future direction of the Appeals service. I am responsible for the operational performance of the Appeals function which includes implementation of our business plan objectives and for line managing and developing our Case Managers. I also Chair the Pharmacy Appeals Committee which is responsible for determining applications to establish or relocate community pharmacies and am one of a number of NHS Resolution officers who can determine all other types of appeals and disputes. We publish all our decisions on appeals and disputes to demonstrate our openness and transparency and that these can be used as a reference for parties involved in primary care contracting disputes.

What I like about my role is that it is broad enough to provide lots of interesting and challenging activity.

How did you became a Chair of an Academy Council of a Primary School?

Firstly, I was approached by the then Vice Chair of the Academy Council (at my son’s school) to consider applying to become a Foundation Governor (an appointment which is made by the Bishop of Leeds). The role of a Governor is to oversee the strategic direction of the school with particular regard to ensuring academic attainment, sound financial management and the maintenance of the school’s ethos and identify. It piqued my interest and having researched the role in more detail, I applied and was duly appointed. I have been the elected Chair of the Academy Council for the last two and a half years, a role which is varied, challenging and rewarding.

Numeracy – what is it and why it is important?

As a Foundation Governor and Chair of an Academy Council, I have a particular interest in how numeracy is taught and assessed at primary level. Without doubt effective numeracy skills equip pupils with a uniquely powerful tool.

Numeracy means understanding how mathematics is used in the real world and being able to apply it to make the best possible decisions. It’s as much about thinking and reasoning as about the actual calculations.

At an early age it is important to establish a secure foundation in mental calculation and recall of number facts before standard written methods are introduced. In Early Years, numeracy [which is the term used as opposed to mathematics] starts with cardinality and counting – understanding that the cardinal value of a number refers to the quantity, or ‘howmanyness’ of things it represents, followed by comparison – understanding that comparing numbers involves knowing which numbers are worth more or less than each other. In later years, as pupils progress onto mathematics they learn place value, addition and subtraction, multiplication and division each with additional complexity.

Numeracy contributes to many subjects and it is equally important children are given opportunities to apply and use their skills in real contexts. As such, it is crucial that parents/carers understand what they can do to inspire their children to be good at numeracy such as:

  • Going shopping with real money (not a credit card) so that children can experience using coins, paying bills and experiencing ‘change’;
  • Playing board games like Snakes and Ladders; and
  • Helping children to understand how to use timetables

There may be opportunities to develop skills and understanding through additional activities, some of which may take place at home including using the ‘Times Tables Rock Stars’ learning platform. Schools may have invested in this for pupils or it can be purchased independently.

Parents/carers should check-out their school website which is likely to contain a Maths Policy and Calculation Policy. These will help understand the structured way in which numeracy/mathematics is taught and is something which can be adopted at home.

Having numeracy skills isn’t simply for pupils though. If you are an adult struggling with numeracy or know someone who is, there are lots of resources available to develop skills such as at NationalNumercy.org.uk

And, if you are wondering what this article has to do with health, well it’s simply that this generation of pupils is the next generation of NHS workers and we all have a responsibility to support them to reach their potential.

Where does working for NHS Resolution bring most value to you?

I lead a team who have a great work ethic and are highly professional in all they do. Everyone is committed to our work and to supporting each other. At the end of the day, we are here to provide the best service possible to those using our services. This means making fair and prompt decisions and bringing cases to resolution.