• Article

Online CPD: the unexpected gains

We speak to three Maths Hubs about how they moved their CPD offer online, what they learned, and what’s next

Online CPD: the unexpected gains
  • Published: 24/06/2021

Whilst pupils are back in schools and online learning is hopefully a thing of the past, online CPD looks here to stay. At first, in the early days of the pandemic, it was considered a poor relation of face-to-face activity. But experience has shown that, in some respects, it’s a more fruitful and practical way for teachers to work together. The aim now is to find a blend of online and face-to-face activity that combines the best of both worlds. We spoke to teachers and leaders in three Maths Hubs about their own experiences, and how they have adapted the hub’s CPD offer to take advantage of the opportunities generated by going online.

London North East Maths Hub – moving CPD online

Leanne Lowe is part of the leadership team at London North East Maths Hub. Before the pandemic, she told us, the hub focused on live, face-to-face events. These included their popular annual conference ‘Mastery Live’, a large-scale open classroom event designed to showcase teaching for mastery. Although always well-attended, these events were limited by space and it was often hard to get headteachers to come.

What’s changed?

Once schools began returning to normal, responding quickly to what schools were needing, the hub started a comprehensive programme of online CPD. Their initial focus was on the Primary Curriculum Prioritisation Materials, and they offered sessions on teaching maths online; these were attended by over 80 schools. A subsequent series of sessions titled ‘Making the most of the summer term in Reception/Year 1/Year 2 etc.’ saw over 700 participants join online. The sessions explored the Primary Curriculum Prioritisation Materials, the DfE maths guidance published last year, and how to revisit Ready-to-Progress criteria that had been taught online when pupils returned to the classroom.

Engaging with so many schools online has also allowed the hub to respond to their needs and provide the training that teachers were asking for directly. As a result, sessions in the summer term have explored how to marry up the DfE maths guidance with schemes of work that follow a textbook. For secondary schools, Teach Meets have been held, with 23 schools signing up to an introductory teaching for mastery session.

What’s next?

The team at London North East plans to keep the momentum of online CPD going, with a ‘Primary Spotlight Series’ running weekly to examine the Ready-to-Progress criteria in detail. The late afternoon sessions mean that teachers can join from school or home, and some schools have even reported moving their whole-school CPD time to coincide with the sessions, ensuring maximum participation and impact.

In addition, borough-specific briefings for headteachers mean that the hub will be able to connect with school leaders more easily. Requiring almost a hundred headteachers to travel across London looks like being a thing of the past.

What’s been learned?

Leanne is realistic about online CPD, and the challenges as well as the advantages. Sometimes, she says, people’s engagement with an online event might not mean giving 100% concentration. And not ‘turning up’ to an online event feels less significant than not being present in person, so attendance can be harder to monitor. The hub’s solution is to apply the same systems to their online CPD that they do with face-to-face activity, and to encourage participants to treat online training the same as they would any other professional development.

The hub can't wait for more face-to-face activity to start up again, and look forward to welcoming teachers back to school-based Work Groups from September. But with plenty more sessions still to run this term, and hundreds of schools on the mailing list ready to hear about future opportunities, online CPD is also definitely here to stay for London North East.

Bucks, Berks and Oxon Maths Hub – creating a team online

Jennie Forde, Primary Teaching for Mastery Lead at BBO Maths Hub, works with a team of 15 Mastery Specialists who are geographically diverse and span the whole region covered by the hub. They used to come together once a term, but found collaboration in between meetings was less likely to happen.

What’s changed?

Since Covid hit and Jennie and the Mastery Specialists moved their interactions online, the feeling of teamwork has increased hugely. Jennie now meets with the team half termly at least, and in between these sessions, sub-groups meet who are leading the same Maths Hubs project. Jennie says one advantage has been that more regular interactions and discussions mean people are more aware of what’s coming up and feel more involved.

Having those Mastery Specialists who are working on the same project able to meet up to plan, share ideas, discuss and explore has been good for professional practice, Jennie says. The supportive online environment has enabled specialists to use each other as a resource when it comes to developing new skills. People have got to know each other better. If one person shares a resource, it saves 15 people all doing their own thing, but also leads to high quality materials as people feel confident to ask questions about the resource to make sure it is as good as it can be.

What’s next?

A blended approach is planned, with some face-to-face activity and some remaining online. Sometimes it’s necessary to get together in person, Jennie explains, because there is an element of informality in face-to-face interaction that can be lost in online meetings. Transactional, information-giving meetings may well remain online, along with some Work Group activity. The hub does hope, however, to reintroduce some opportunities for both Mastery Specialists and Work Groups to get together in person.

What’s been learned?

For Jennie, a crucial lesson has been not to let the technology take over. When planning a session, she says, it’s important to be yourself and plan it as you would normally. Helping people establish a rapport early on, especially if they have never met before, is essential. Being online makes this more difficult, but it’s vital to find ways to do it. And finally, don’t worry if the technology goes wrong! It happens to us all, so people completely understand that glitches can occur.

South Yorkshire Maths Hub – online Work Group activity

To support teachers of maths across South Yorkshire, Vicki John-Lewis (Maths Hub Lead) and Tara Webster (Maths Hub Coordinator) were instrumental in moving all the hub’s activity online and developing sessions that they knew teachers wanted. Prior to the pandemic, all Work Group activity was face-to-face, but travel times across the hub area meant that much of this collaboration had to be very local.

What’s changed?

The hub’s leadership and management team met with Work Group Leads to establish the best way forward when face-to-face activity stopped. Online activity in a range of formats was agreed – live, pre-recorded and on the online collaboration app Basecamp – with a focus on flexibility so as many people as possible could continue to engage. Work Group Leads were encouraged to match their offer to the requirements of their Work Group participants.

Online activity enabled Work Groups to continue, and new sessions were also offered to support teachers using the NCETM’s Covid recovery materials. Years 5-8 Continuity Work Groups were a particular success, allowing colleagues from primary and secondary to work together to ensure that pupils’ transition was as smooth as possible in a highly-disrupted year.

Participants were extremely positive about their online activity. Many felt there was a new clarity to the sessions, and enjoyed the breakout room function for smaller, focused discussion. The chat function also allowed participants to ask questions either publicly or privately, and to get responses immediately.

What’s next?

An online networking event is planned for early July. This will include talks by Ofsted, Gareth Metcalfe, and the EEF. Being online means geographical and hub boundaries will not limit participation, so the neighbouring hubs of East Midlands West and Yorkshire and the Humber can also get involved.

The hub’s summer festival of events will feature a range of online and face-to-face activities, including workshops on SEND and the EYFS reforms, and open classrooms. Teachers will also have a chance to see Covid recovery materials being used in a classroom setting. There will be other activity that remains online, Vicki says, including network meetings and the new programme for secondary non-specialist maths teachers.

What’s been learned?

Offering a coherent mixture of pre-recorded and live sessions is important, Vicki explains, so that pre-recorded sessions are of value, and closely linked to the live sessions where participants will be interacting. Being prepared to take risks is also something the hub advocates. Take a leap of faith, Tara says! The hub team is now launching head-on into preparation for the large-scale online event ‘Review, Reimagine, Reignite’ being held in early July this year.

If you would like to find out what CPD is on offer from your local Maths Hub, contact them by visiting our Find your hub page.

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