Closing the Gap in Maths at KS2 through developing excellent in teaching and learning

All Saints Teaching School

1. Overview

This was a regionally coordinated, system leadership, school improvement project spanning five hubs in the SW in partnership with Teaching School Council SW. Our partners are Exeter Diocese, Torbay and Devon LA, and two Maths Hubs.

The aim was to raise achievement for disadvantaged pupils and close the gap through developing leaders to be able to improve class-based practice (thus addressing regional priorities). Studies show that the biggest impact on learning for vulnerable pupils is high quality teaching. The project had a Train the Trainer approach to develop SLEs to deliver a school improvement. SLEs will deliver, in hubs, a series of face to face CPD and SLE visits to develop maths leaders to be able to improve classroom practice and close the gap.

The long-term aim was to create replicable local and regional networks which supported any further identified need and created a sustainable solution to school improvement. The project resulted in over 20 SLEs for Maths skilled in school improvement, and lead schools who can provide further support.

2. Good practice to share with others interested in running school improvement projects to ensure projects deliver the intended outcome.

Recognising that school improvement takes time was key to our project. The outcomes and key changes evolved and matured into the second year, and by this stage strong relationships had formed and therefore a more open dialogue between School Leader, SLE and SLT could take place, ensuring honest and productive conversations, especially actions for challenges they were facing. The project empowered subject leaders to go back to school with sound theory and raise their status - it gave them a clear mandate for digging deeper in the teaching and learning of maths across their school, legitimacy to be in classrooms and finding out about key performance indicators and accountability measures that would determine their success. The iterative nature of the school improvement model (i.e. regular face to face visits with SLE and cluster meetings) meant change could evolve naturally and would be sustainable in the long term, especially as in year two of the project the role of the SLE changed to being less of a driver of those meeting agendas to more of a guide on the side, sounding board, as subject leader's confidence improved.

The structure we used of train the trainer, area network/cluster meetings and face to face meetings meant there was real clarity from all involved in terms of expectation, level of commitment, development of subject knowledge etc. This has meant that not only has maths improved in the 41 participating schools, but also in the schools of the 25 SLEs involved. Furthermore, the fact that the model was a train the trainer approach meant that SLEs had the opportunity to lead the network and cluster meetings and this wasn't reliant on Maths Hub lead facilitators, thus developing further capacity across the network for future projects of CPD events. The maths specific subject knowledge drew on much of the published mastery materials and made use of some of the mastery specialists training as we had a mastery specialist and hub mastery lead designing the train the trainer sessions. This ensured that SLEs and School Leaders (SLs) were receiving a consistent message with those that were out there as part of the Teaching for Mastery programme and group work. The sessions made use of the Maths ‘No Problem’ materials, Power Maths, White Rose and resources used by visiting Shanghai teachers, thereby showing schools how they can use these resources in a range of contexts. The project ensured time for discussion and input from those SLEs and SLs who were part of TfM teacher research groups and those who had observed Shanghai teachers, thereby ensuring consistency in messages whilst focusing on the core elements that were different to the maths hub: the relentless focus on disadvantaged pupils.

By having three focus pupils that were tracked throughout the project, the focus on disadvantaged pupils was maintained and could be evaluated at various points. The visit notes and regular monitoring of these by teaching schools leads and at strategic board meetings provided a robust structure of holding to account and a commitment to action and follow up by the schools. In Year 2 of the project, once relationships were established, funding SLEs to attend cluster meetings with their SLs ensured more time for professional dialogue, challenge and deepening of thinking as a collective. 

3. Lessons learned - What the project may do differently in the future

  1. Many of our SLEs were at different starting points on their journey of school to school support and extra sessions were put in to ensure everyone was operating at a consistent high standard. Future projects would be able to make use of the Maths Hubs new SLE national programme of support.
  2. Another area that could be developed would be the engagement of SLT as a group of school leaders. Although SLEs were regularly talking to them as part of the face to face visits, future projects could engage SLT as a group of leaders after school to update, identify key issues, share key indicators of success etc. A relaunch to these key stakeholders in the second year could be incorporated into a future project.
  3. The strategic group also felt that more accountability could be given to senior leaders through putting a clause in the MOU ensuring a regular report back to governors specifically on the project and its impact in their school. Secondly, the selection process for SSIF has meant that some schools, particularly those who were in difficulty were put forward by LAs and had to be included to meet the eligibility criteria. However, where there was not a secure leadership solution in the school this has meant less impact. Moving forward with the co-ordinated approach with the DfE School Improvement Offer and how Team South West are aligning support, this would not be an issue in future projects.
  4. A positive lesson has been, be collaborative! The project, its scope and its impact would not have been possible without a regionally coordinated approach. It has meant that we could reach many schools and working in a hub model with Teaching School leads made it manageable and sustainable. This project and lessons and impact is spread across the region. However, in order to ensure the correct schools were part of the project there should have been more co-ordination between LAs and other projects being submitted to ensure that schools did not end up part of more than one project, be that SSIF or any other initiative. This would have prevented initiative overload that some schools experienced

4. Sustainability measures taken by the project to ensure improvements are sustained beyond the funding period

It has been agreed that the outcomes from this project will be disseminated within each of the local teaching schools involved through a celebration in newsletters and with schools involved. SLEs have been asked to continue to signpost subject leaders in the school's they worked with to the work of the Maths Hubs through the Maths Hub offer. Both Maths Hub representatives have a network of SLs and SLEs who they will be contacting regularly if they haven't already engaged with Maths Hub work. Although, 61% of schools have started to participate or are signed up to participate next academic year to maths hub supported work, thus maintaining the momentum of the project. 88% of the SLEs on the project attended the joint maths hub local leaders of maths education conference, further developing their network and CPD for future deployment. It is expected that this year will maintain or exceed that number. Teaching schools have committed to maintaining their network of SLEs through regular teaching school meetings and subject knowledge/leader development networks.

Teaching schools have already continued to work together on joint projects involving the development of maths with SLEs being deployed to support schools across the TSA network in the project on subject specific areas of specialism, e.g. bar modelling. Maths Hubs are looking to use some of the SLEs in the project within hub work such as the embedding mastery groups (following involvement in the TfM TRG), thereby building capacity within the hub and teaching school alliances. Teaching schools are working together to host a joint annual maths conference, which all SLs and SLEs who have been part of this project will be invited to maintain as part of their own CPD, developing subject knowledge and strengthening their network opportunities. Close work with both maths hubs strategic groups means the hubs are well placed to use SLEs and SLs in future projects as appropriate. As a result of cluster meeting’s strong area networks have been formed and already in their second year. SLs were sharing resources between themselves and inviting each other in to see practice and support each other, something which they plan to continue beyond the life of this project.