- Published: 15/11/2023
Work Group Leads and Cohort Leads are the people responsible for leading Maths Hubs professional development at a local level (making them local leaders of mathematics education or LLMEs). Experts in both maths teaching and CPD, they combine knowledge of their local context with an understanding of the national picture of maths teaching. This means that they can make the professional development they lead as bespoke and high-quality as possible. Working with small groups of teachers and schools, they really get to know participants and work with them over an academic year or more. And they are usually practising classroom teachers at the same time too.
But who are Work Group Leads and Cohort Leads, and how have they taken on the role? In our ‘Spotlights’ series, we speak to Work Group Leads and Cohort Leads across the country, in all phases, to learn more.
Vicki Giffard has been a primary teacher, a maths lead, a lecturer on the Primary PGCE at the University of Leicester, and has worked for Leicestershire’s School Improvement Service. She began working with her local Maths Hub, East Midlands South, in 2015, and has led a variety of different Work Groups during this time.
What is your current role?
I am involved in leading groups and cohorts for the Professional Development Lead Programme, the Primary Specialist Knowledge for Teaching Mathematics (SKTM) Programme, and the Mastering Number Programme. This year, the core materials for the Primary SKTM have been updated, so I am looking forward to using them and evaluating the difference these make to the learning of both participants and pupils.
When did you first get involved with the Maths Hub?
It was in 2015, when I was working as a primary teacher and maths subject leader. Over the years, I've been part of different projects facilitated by the hub. My favourite recent Work Group was a Research and Innovation Work Group (RIWG), looking at connections between multiplicative thinking and spatial reasoning. It gave me the platform to engage with research and shape the project as the year progressed.
What does your LLME activity involve?
As an LLME, my responsibilities are diverse. I guide a group of motivated teachers during face-to-face sessions, where we come together to explore research and pedagogy. The purpose and outcomes for each Work Group are clear and focused, which makes my job easier. However, I have the autonomy to make adaptations to ensure the participants’ needs are catered for. As I have led the Primary SKTM for a number of years, I can reflect on what has worked well and make my sessions bespoke for the participants. I work closely with teachers and schools, supporting them where needed outside of our sessions, and gather feedback about the impact the programme is having.
What are the challenges of being an LLME?
I think one of the biggest challenges is ensuring there is sustainability beyond the 'life' of the Work Group or Cohort. Participants work hard to develop their practice during the programme, but they need to be able to sustain these classroom improvements after the project. This is why, for Mastering Number, I value the opportunity for schools to stay for a second year with 'Embedding the Impact', as it provides extra time to really embed some of the pedagogical strategies.
Another challenge is time, particularly time for senior leaders to really understand the purpose of the programme and how they can best support the teacher who is involved in the Work Group or Cohort. Senior leaders really value the work of the hub, but finding time for them to be fully involved can be challenging. However, where leaders can invest time, it contributes significantly to the sustainability of changes to classroom practice after the activity has ended.
What do you most enjoy about being an LLME?
The most enjoyable aspect is working with colleagues who have a common vision, and having pupils at the centre of everything we do. It's particularly rewarding to work with teachers who may not have had a positive experience with maths before, as I can show them a different side of the subject and influence their beliefs and values. I enjoy seeing the development of participants over the course of the activity and hearing them speak knowledgeably about children's learning. Knowing that the Work Group or programme is having a beneficial impact in the classroom is very rewarding.
Want to become an LLME?
Find out more about how local leaders of maths education (LLME) lead the work of the Maths Hubs at a local level, and how you can become one.