Assistant Headteacher Liam Noon and Maths Subject Lead and Teacher Judith Myhill of St Thomas’ C of E Primary School in Blackburn share their tips on implementing a mastery programme and how to make it work successfully.
Create a whole-school vision
At the very beginning of our journey, we strategically mapped out where we wanted to go with our new mastery programme, Inspire Maths, and decided to implement it throughout the whole school, from Years 1 to 6. In this way, it became a whole-school vision and it meant that we were all in it together.
We had a staff meeting and introduced the part-part-whole and bar models to teachers. Then Liz Henning, our Professional Development (PD) Consultant, helped us to launch Inspire Maths in the school, which was absolutely fantastic. Our staff were so excited afterwards. We used half a term where we encouraged teachers to just “have a go”. We asked them to choose a topic that they hadn’t covered yet, and use Inspire Maths. “No pressure, just have a dabble!” We thought it important for teachers not to feel the pressure of having to get results. It helped to ease everyone in.
One of our teachers, who’s been teaching for more than 20 years, said: “Why have I never done this before? Why have I never taught like this? I feel as though I’ve been doing it wrong all this time.”
Be flexible about your teaching methods
Get everyone in the school to have a go at teaching with the programme, from the top all the way down. We thought that it was important for everyone in our school to use it. Even though some of us don’t have our own classes, we went into classrooms and we had a go, and that was a really essential learning curve.
At the same time, we didn’t want to be too prescriptive. We wanted teachers to find their feet and become confident, so we were happy to be flexible and let staff choose their teaching methods. We set one objective, which was for all children to be able to use part-part-whole and bar models by the time they moved up into the next class.
Develop a clear mindset
We’ve become much more focused on self-evaluation since using Inspire Maths, and staff Continuing Professional Development (CPD) has been so vital. This is something that should be stressed to any school that takes on Inspire Maths. We encourage plenty of team teaching as well as frequent reflection and planning. We can’t rely on inset days and whole-school training; it’s those conversations after school and asking ourselves: “How did that lesson go? What are the issues: What are we going to do tomorrow?” We’ve become much more focused on evaluating what we’re doing with our children and picking out where they need to go now.
Patience is key
It’s not going to be an instant transition. We clearly mapped out our vision for each year and we hope to see the full impact in five years. I’ve come across plenty of people who give up after a year of implementing a new programme in schools, and you really need to give the teachers and the children more time to adjust. It’s a long progression and, after all, we’re developing mathematicians for the future!
Establish good communication with parents
We run parent workshops through the local authority and also put information on the website to share with parents. The workshops aren’t just about: “This is what your child is doing in class.” They’re more about: “This is what you can do with your child at home.”
Reflect on your practice
After a year, we reflected on the coverage, assessment, progression, looking at those barriers that we are trying to overcome all the time. It’s really important to reflect on your practice. You have to keep going back in order to move forward as a school.
The impact of using Inspire Maths
Mastering knowledge: The way that Inspire Maths is set out deepens children’s understanding and the conversations that they have with one another. Their subject knowledge has enhanced greatly, especially given how deep those books are. We’ve seen growth in the confidence of children and staff, and teachers are now saying they can’t imagine teaching maths any other way.
School profile: Schools from all over the authority have visited us to see lessons in action. The profile of our school has had a snowball effect throughout the local authority. Maths is buzzing in the authority and that can only be a good thing.
It has also prioritised maths in our school and is on the school development programme. We’ve also seen how Inspire Maths has helped to support comprehension in reading as well, so it’s had a whole school impact.
Results: KS1 results – in 2017, we were at 76% expected (ARE) and we had 25% at greater depth (GD) which was the highest ever. It’s worth remembering that a very high proportion of children have English as an additional language (EAL) with extremely limited language and vocabulary. So we’re very proud of those results. At KS2, we did a test last week. The children took last year’s SATs and we were looking at 90% achieving ARE so we’re really excited to keep moving forward.
Confidence of teachers and children: Our whole school is buzzing about maths. Everyone loves Inspire Maths. Here are a couple of quotes from our teachers:
“I can’t imagine teaching maths without Inspire Maths.”
“Inspire Maths is future-proofing both our children and our curriculum.”
Liam and Judith spoke at our sales conference in April 2018.
Find out more about St Thomas’ C of E Primary School and attend an open morning to see Inspire Maths classes in action.