What next for September?

The below blog was also published by the NCETM in their June edition of NCETM Secondary Magazine. (www.NCETM.org.uk/resources/49085).  This magazine is well worth subscribing to the NCETM for as it is packed full of useful teaching ideas and commentary on the latest developments in secondary education and maths teaching.

As ever, one exam cycle comes to a close and my immediate thoughts turn to preparing for the next one, only this time it is slightly different.  With the increased demands of the new GCSE across all abilities, the fact that ALL grades contribute to progress 8 and best 8, and the fact we can’t really be sure what the papers will look like, my team and I have been grappling with how we can prepare year 10 for what they are going to face.  Here’s what we have come up with so far.

  • Prioritise numeracy skills – we have introduced Numeracy Ninjas (numeracyninjas.org) across almost all year 10 classes. It has been quite scary how low their mathematical fluency was, but already after only 8 weeks of using it we (and more importantly they) can see significant improvements.  We will continue with this at least twice a week throughout year 11.
  • Homework – we have switched from mymaths.co.uk to the excellent www.hegartymaths.com. This site gives us so much more in terms of the quality of information about individual strengths and weaknesses for all students.  We are using the website for both weekly homework, and also to gather information that informs both planning for first teaching, but also intervention support.
  • A good scheme of work – we have found kangaroomaths.com to be a really good starting point for our SOW. We are currently adding to it to include our own resources and to fully integrate our tracking of their understanding into each topic, along with homework tasks linked to hegartymaths.
  • Use of exam questions – these will become integral to the teaching of each topic for practice. Previously we have set half an exam paper each week for most of the academic year. Given the increased demand we will change this for September. Hegartymaths will form the basis of homework until Christmas in order to track progress through the remaining content.  We will start using exam papers, both legacy papers and new spec samples, from January alongside hegartymaths.
  • Continue to embed PiXL principles of Diagnosis, Therapy, Testing. hegartymaths.com has a huge part to play in this process as tasks will be set as prior learning tasks to check their understanding before first teaching. We will then reuse those tasks where students did less well to measure progress within that topic. This programme is being planned for all year groups moving forwards. This approach also makes homework a vital part of the learning process, rather than an ‘add on’.
  • Being honest with the students – I am already investing a lot of time telling year 10 and their parents that the exams are getting harder. I want them prepared for it.  To help with this we are focussing even more in teaching that really tests their understanding. Constantly asking them to explain/prove why, changing the question to see if they can still answer it, getting them to work backwards through problems, writing their own questions, focussing on correct language at all times to familiarise them with the subject-specific vocabulary they need to know, the list goes on.

The new specification has made us focus even more on the quality of our teaching and learning.  We have an unrelenting focus on this, and we are doing everything we can to put a downward pressure on workload so that this becomes the absolute priority.  Thankfully we are in a school where reducing workload and encouraging teacher wellbeing is towards the top of the agenda.