In their own words
Our Maths — No Problem! journey
After several years of hovering at or below national mathematics averages, in 2014-15 we reviewed our approach to Maths and identified particular areas of weakness within our school. These included inconsistent strategies across and amongst year groups, limited understanding and use of physical resources, and particular inefficiencies at accelerating the progress of our lower attainers.
After a series of Inset training surrounding the CPA approach, we trialled and then dedicated ourselves to implementing a mastery approach using Maths — No Problem! as our scaffold; we started September 2015 in all year groups.
We chose Maths — No Problem! because it challenges all children to be able to reach the ‘core’ learning in every lesson while encouraging children to be able to ‘Talk for Maths’ effectively. One of our methods for supporting our lower attaining children in this regard was to release every teacher for three afternoons a week to pre-teach targeted children. Consequently, 44% of our lower ability children made accelerated progress in 2015-16, 46% in 2016-17 and 41% in 2017-18.
Having used the MNP scheme for around a year and a half, our head teacher (Lloyd Murphy) and Emma Batchelor attended the 2017 MNP Annual Conference, which focused on differentiation for all. This was a thought-provoking and inspiring day for us both and led us to question whether we were using the scheme as effectively as we could.
Further research into the MNP approach was carried out and it was established that we were in fact using the textbooks and workbooks as more of a guide rather than a facilitator of learning. As a result, Emma Batchelor and four NQT’s attended a three-day Teaching for Mastery course run by Dr Yeap Ban Har in July 2017. The course itself allowed us to see just how ‘clever’ the scheme was and the connections that needed to be made within all parts of a single lesson as well as a series of lessons.
In response to this course, as a school, we set out to adjust our teaching approach to allow for a greater focus on teaching for mastery. It became a key School Development Priority in 2017-18 and 2018-19 with a large chunk of Inset and release time dedicated to allow for impactful change.
As part of the change in lesson structure, we focused on a more investigative start, with children spending time exploring the In Focus problems and finding multiple methods to solve low floor, high ceiling questions. Once children found these multiple methods, they could feed them back to the class under effective questioning from the teacher. Following this, children then practised the target method during Guided Practice with teachers highlighting the variation between questions before children would complete their independent learning.
Initially, this change in structure and approach resulted in a dip in the quality of teaching as evidenced by formal observations carried out in October 2017. This was primarily because teachers went out of their comfort zone to explore our new approach. However, with faith in the methodology, calm heads, clearly laid out Inset, and personalised support we were able to make accelerated progress.
Consequently, by the end of academic year 2017-18, KS2 data showed 83% of children meeting with 37% exceeding and KS1 data showed 87% of children meeting with 29% exceeding. Since starting with MNP, maths has continuously been our strongest subject.