A maths mastery success story with St. Bridget’s Primary School Part I
The following is an excerpt from an interview that took place in May, 2022 via videoconference with Headteacher Neil Le Feuvre, Assistant Headteacher Ryan Neal and Maths Lead Rosie Ross at St. Bridget’s C of E Primary in Wirral, UK. The interview was conducted by Chris Fournier, senior copywriter at Maths — No Problem!
“Maths — No Problem! gave teachers licence to spend time more deeply on richer questions. And that was what created a significant change in our maths programme. The pace of the lesson slowed down, but the depth increased.”– Rosie Ross
St. Bridget’s CE Primary in Wirral, UK needed to find a solution for pupils who struggled to grasp more complex concepts and had difficulty describing their thinking. The Maths — No Problem! Programme and the mastery approach turned out to be the solution. St. Bridget’s purchased the Maths — No Problem! Primary Series in 2015, becoming one of our first customers. We recently checked in to see how things were going.
Q1: Why did you choose to use Maths — No Problem! initially?
Neil Le Feuvre: We took on Maths — No Problem! and their maths mastery programme mainly because we have a lot of children who were reasonably able at maths, but were unable to fully understand more complex ideas about maths. Sometimes our pupils couldn’t even talk about how they’d reached a conclusion or an answer when they’d been working in class. Therefore, we knew that we needed to find something that was more useful for our students’ education.
Q2: How would you say Maths — No Problem! has changed the maths programme at St. Bridget’s?
Rosie Ross: Maths lessons used to be a bit overloaded and busy, whereas the structure of Maths — No Problem! lessons are not. Maths — No Problem! gave teachers licence to spend time more deeply on richer questions. And that was what created a significant change in our maths programme. The pace of the lesson slowed down, but the depth increased.
Ryan Neal: Our expectations of maths lessons were raised across the board with Maths — No Problem! It really opened our eyes to what can be achieved across a lesson, across a series of lessons for all the children, to the point where we don’t have sets anymore. We approach our lessons as a whole class, and that, to me, was amazing. We wouldn’t do it any other way.
Neil Le Feuvre: In the past, when a child had finished a maths book, it went on the secret shelf of the teacher, maybe in the back of the cupboard and out-of-sight. Now, we actually cello tape them together because we find that the children use them as a reference point for their own work, and it’s actually something that they’re really proud of. I wish I’d have had maths books that I could reflect back on that I was proud of. I didn’t, so I’m glad they have.
Q3: What would you say are some of the big benefits of the Maths — No Problem! Programme?
Ryan Neal: The students are able to recognise the skills that make them good mathematicians now, as opposed to, in the past, when the child who could maybe do six pages of multiplication very quickly was deemed to be the best mathematician in the room. Some of those children who were maybe very good at computation all of a sudden struggled with verbalising their thoughts and explaining it in different ways. Now children see the value of being able to articulate their ideas.
Rosie Ross: Another benefit is the planned lessons. It’s freeing for the teachers. We are able to say: ‘The subject knowledge is there, you are going to develop your subject knowledge by studying this lesson, but you know that these materials are safe’. There’s comfort in knowing that they’re doing exactly what’s needed for the children at that stage.
Q4: Do you find using Maths — No Problem! saves you time?
Rosie Ross: It saves time in that you are not looking in lots of different places, trying to match the right resources that you want to use. More importantly, rather than saving time, it makes your use of time more efficient and purposeful.
Ryan Neal: Another way the textbooks could save time is when you bring in a supply teacher or a new member of staff. The kids know exactly how a maths lesson should be structured.
Rosie Ross: They’re not phased by different teachers because there’s a consistency and a coherence in the way all Maths — No Problem! teachers teach. We’ve got that really tailored, beautiful structure in the lesson, so it’s very easy now for new teachers to go in and teach other classes.
Q5: How have your students fared against national tests? Would you say that Maths — No Problem! better prepared them for testing?
Rosie Ross: We didn’t need to boost when we were nearing national tests. We did a couple of practise tests, but because those children had been part of the Maths — No Problem! maths mastery programme, there weren’t any gaps in their learning and therefore there was no need to boost.
Now, when you look at how a GCSE maths paper is structured, you’ve got some quite significant marks for certain questions, and the skill that’s needed there is they need to actually journal. Those Year-11s need to be able to journal their ideas because they’re looking for maybe 12 marks on a question, and they’ve got to show their thought process. My own daughter who went through a school that used Maths — No Problem! hasn’t found that to be an issue for her because journaling was so ingrained in her from primary school. And even now, in the middle of doing GCSEs, that’s how she approaches maths.
Ryan Neal: Also, there’s quite a significant SEN portion of the cohort, where in the past some of them wouldn’t have accessed the national tests. And it’s that resilience students gain with Maths — No Problem! that helped. No matter the ability of the child, learning and approaching maths this way builds that resilience. Hopefully that will come out in the data over the next few years.
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