A RESPECTED retired maths teacher has called for a major shift in how the subject is taught in Oxfordshire schools, claiming the current system is 'toxic'.

Colin Hannaford has written a booklet from the viewpoint of his dog Amadeus, whose death last month prompted him to channel his grief into something productive.

The retired teacher worked for decades as head of mathematics at the European School in Culham, and formerly taught at Magdalen College School in Oxford.

He developed an award-winning method of maths teaching in which he encouraged students to think for themselves and work together, which he said saw their confidence and exam success soar.

Mr Hannaford, who lives in Botley, said: "This [book] is an initiative to cure the toxic environment of competition in schools and universities.

"Kids are getting a pretty rough deal. They fill up with information so they know how to pass exams - a quantitative measure, but you can't measure intelligence.

"Pupils are brow-beaten into submission of the regiment of doing something - that's devastating morally.

"There are a couple of kids who do understand, a large group who don't actually understand but don't say anything and pretend they do, and another group that just 'don't get it' and are fed up."

He said maths is more than just sums and textbooks but a 'democratic language', adding: "Mathematics has a moral basis. It's not logical. It should be understood to have a deep and powerful message to listen to one another."

He decided to sit down and write the book after his five-year-old dog Amadeus died of an infection.

In an emotional end chapter, in which Mr Hannaford describes the heartache of his loss, he states: "Our schools are the breeding grounds of all the insanities that blight out societies, that divide and weaken nations...we are creating these faults in our schools.

"We must insist that schools stop teaching children to compete for the right to look with pity or derision or contempt on any who succeed less well, nor to envy and dislike those who leave them behind."

He has sent the book, which includes three lessons, to headteachers of several Oxfordshire schools - asking them to consider trying it out - as well as prominent politicians.

Mr Hannaford has also gained support from Blackwell's in Oxford, which has installed a display of the booklets in its Broad Street branch for children to pick up a free copy.

His campaign to change teaching earned him a nomination for the Canadian Parliament Peace Prize in 1998, and he won the Upton Sinclair Award for Education Innovation in 2008.

In a guest talk at Oxford Brookes University last year, Mr Hannaford told the audience: "The majority of teachers have been taught to teach as if children’s minds are so many empty buckets to be filled up with facts.

"The systematic degradation of young people’s self worth is the major cause of the current epidemic of school expulsions, children’s depression, adult depression, the abuse of alcohol and other drugs."

Mr Hannaford said he recognised some teachers might be wary of changing tactics, but said the 'effect of reasoning in class is magic'.

He said one former boss banged on the table after watching his lesson and told him: "You must stop this. Your job is to write on the blackboard and they copy it down and learn it."

Mr Hannaford added: "Teachers are a pretty terrified lot, and that's the kind of resistance you'll run into.

"These people, running first-rate schools, will be so anxious their school doesn't fail anyone. I'm suggesting just once a month to have an Amadeus lesson and learn together to stay strong, so the class isn't divided."