St James' Church of England Primary School, Lower Darwen

Summary of school

St James, Lower Darwen is a one-form entry school in Lower Darwen. The principles of the mastery approach are at the heart of mathematics at St James’. Our principal aim is to develop children’s knowledge, skills and understanding in maths, including fluency, reasoning and problem solving. We do this through a daily lesson that has a high proportion of whole-class and group-direct teaching. During these lessons, we encourage children to ask as well as answer mathematical questions, and to discuss their learning with their peers. They have the opportunity to use a wide range of concrete resources such as Numicon, Cuisenaire rods and place value counters to enhance their learning. Teachers use ICT in maths lessons, where it will enhance the children’s learning, to model concepts, methods and concrete or pictorial representations. Wherever possible, we encourage the children to use and apply their learning in everyday situations.

When and how they got involved with the Maths Hub

 

St James’, Lower Darwen got involved in Summer 2019 and took part in a pilot teacher research group (TRG) that a Primary Mastery Specialist from the Maths Hub was running as part of her Mastery Specialist training year. We became involved through local school improvement group links. Aisha, maths lead and Year 6 teacher and Leeann, Year 2 teacher, both took part in the pilot TRG session. They both wanted to continue developing teaching for mastery at St James’ and so then applied to take part in the Development programme. St James' are currently on the Embedding Mastery programme and will be moving to Sustaining Mastery in September 2021.

Interview with a lead participant
Aisha Bibby, Maths Lead and Year 6 teacher

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Tell us about your practice, beliefs and attitudes before joining the Work Group.

Before joining the Work Group, I was interested in the mastery approach but I wasn't sure what it entailed and whether you needed to spend a lot of money on textbooks to follow it properly. I wanted to improve maths at St. James', especially in regards to reasoning and ensuring that we were promoting a deep understanding of maths in all of our children.

Tell us about any changes you have made thanks to your work with the hub.

Working with the Maths Hub has helped me as a maths subject leader to transform maths at my school. We changed our scheme of work to use the White Rose Maths scheme throughout the school. As well as this, we transformed the lesson design of our maths lessons to include a recap, teach, shared practice, independent practice and challenge as well as weaving fluency, reasoning and problem-solving throughout each lesson. We have also begun to implement the lesson share and reflection model used in the TRG as a means of sharing good practice and working together to develop maths at our school in a supportive environment. Without being a part of the Work Group, we would never have been able to implement the successful changes that we have made at St. James'.

What has been the impact of the changes you made?

Although we missed out on gaining formal data from statutory tests at the end of the last academic year, we were beginning to see improvements in data throughout the school, as well as lots of anecdotal impact from both children and teachers. Children were recognising their own confidence growing – "Oh! I really understand this now!" – as well as staff gaining a deeper understanding of how to break down the teaching of maths into the small steps needed to enable more children to keep up with the whole class.

What are your next steps?

Continue to develop the lesson sharing model used in the TRG Work Group (once we can do this safely!) and continue to develop the main ideas of mastery throughout our school. Initially, we focused on developing reasoning in all classes. Now that we have focused on that for a year, Leeann and I could choose a different focus to develop further (e.g. representations).

Why would you recommend the Work Group to others?


I wouldn't hesitate to recommend the Work Group to any other school interested in developing maths. It is a fantastic opportunity to meet with other schools and share best practice, alongside the expertise of a Mastery Specialist who will guide you along your journey and provide tailored advice and support. 

Final statement from the maths lead

"Since introducing the mastery approach at St. James', we have been delighted with the development by both staff and children in maths. We have found that there has been a widespread positive impact in attainment, and also in enjoyment and confidence in maths. Staff report that children are finding it easier to grasp new concepts and build on existing knowledge, as well as finding it easier to develop their understanding of new vocabulary. As well as this, we have found that it is easier to track coverage and ensure a consistent approach throughout classes. Thanks to the Teaching for Mastery Work Group, we have been able to disseminate knowledge throughout our staff team and implement similar training methods, including lesson sharing and discussion. Taking part in the TRG has been the best CPD I've ever done for maths and has also allowed me to develop my leadership skills as the Maths Subject Leader. I would strongly recommend the mastery programme to anyone who wants to develop mathematics, whether that be in their own classroom or throughout the school.

Interview with a lead participant
Leeann Malik, Year 2 teacher

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Tell us about your practice, beliefs and attitudes before joining the Work Group.

As an RQT, I knew very little about teaching for mastery in maths. I enjoy teaching maths but found it challenging to teach whole class maths to a class with a huge spread of abilities. I was open minded and excited.

Tell us about any changes you have made thanks to your work with the hub.

The Work Group created opportunities to discuss maths with like-minded professionals. I introduced the stem sentences (and displayed them on the working wall) which gave the pupils confidence and is improving their oracy skills. Following the White Rose scheme allowed me to spend longer on a topic to ensure everyone was secure/challenged before moving on. Lesson observations allowed me to see how the theory actually worked in practice.

What are your next steps?

To introduce some additional booster/recap sessions for children who have not accessed learning during lockdown. This will ensure we can all make progress together. (I have moved up with the class into Year 2).

Why would you recommend the Work Group to others?

Teaching for mastery in maths actually works. It allows all children to access the same learning and ensures no one is left behind.

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Interview with the headteacher
Dan Theobalds

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Tell us about your practice, beliefs and attitudes before joining the Work Group.

We had gone through a period of change in relation to maths in school, with our previous lead taking us in a particular direction that I’m not sure all staff were happy with or understood.

Tell us about any changes you have made thanks to your work with the hub.

I think Aisha and Leeann embracing the learning and support on offer changed things quickly, and they were able to share with staff a clear direction and strategy that made sense, made planning and modelling easier, and was easy for colleagues to embrace and get on board with.

What evidence of impact of this work do you have?


We have plenty of anecdotal evidence from teachers and evidence in books. Covid got in the way of the data but it was starting to look like we were heading in the right direction, especially in the lower parts of school.
 

What are your next steps?

Continue to work with the hub, continue to support teachers, continue to monitor and look for impact.

Why would you recommend the Work Group to others?

For all the reasons mentioned above, but mainly because we believe the approach benefitted teaching and learning and will make a difference to understanding and manipulating numbers and the number system for our children.

Final statement from the headteacher

"I would recommend working with the Maths Hub as we believe the mastery approach benefits teaching and learning and will make a difference to understanding and manipulating numbers and the number system for our children.  The fact that our two participants embraced the learning and support on offer changed things in school quickly and they were able to share with staff a clear direction and strategy that made sense, made planning and modelling easier, and was easy for colleagues to embrace and get on board with.