• Article

The non-specialist in the secondary maths department

A Maths Hubs programme that helps ‘train-up’ teachers whose first subject isn’t maths

The non-specialist in the secondary maths department
  • Published: 27/04/2022

‘I can speak maths now, with the rest of the department,’ explains Simon Hemsworth, as he nears the end of a course of 18 sessions run by his local Maths Hub, in a free programme to help non-specialist secondary teachers develop the specialist knowledge needed for teaching maths.

Simon, who trained as a PE teacher, now fills the role of ‘transition teacher’ at The Henry Box School in Witney, Oxfordshire. The role combines pastoral and transitional support for incoming Year 7s with about half a timetable of KS3 maths lessons.

‘The course has given me the ammunition, when I’m teaching, to say “OK; they’re not getting it now; how can I deliver it in a different way?”’ he explains in our latest podcast episode.

The programme

The programme Simon joined, available in every Maths Hub area in England, is called Specialist Knowledge for Teaching Mathematics (SKTM). There are versions available for teachers in all phases. The word ‘specialist’ is chosen deliberately, because it goes further than is generally understood by the word ‘subject’ in the familiar phrase ‘subject knowledge.’

‘It’s not just about being able to do the maths yourself,’ says Nicola Trubridge, Assistant Director for Secondary at the NCETM, and the designer of the programme Simon joined. ‘It’s about being able to understand where students have come from, to understand the curriculum and know about progression.’

Simon was part of a small group of secondary non-specialists from different schools, led by a Cohort Lead from the Bucks, Berks and Oxon Maths Hub, in 18 twilight sessions of two to three hours between November 2021 and April 2022.

Sessions based on core mathematical concepts

The sessions are based on the 17 core concepts at the heart of the Secondary Mastery Professional Development Materials on the NCETM website. ‘There’s a particular focus on mathematical representations,’ says Nicola, ‘and different ways of presenting concepts, so that maths isn’t taught in a procedural way, but in a way links are made with the concepts that underpin the maths.’

Simon’s head of department, Karen Moss, has worked with the local Maths Hub for a few years, and now spends part of her time, as a Secondary Mastery Specialist, supporting other schools in introducing teaching for mastery approaches. That experience gave her confidence that, by attending the course, Simon would become familiar with many of the essential components of teaching for mastery that she has been introducing to the maths department at Henry Box for the last few years.

‘I’ve now been into several of Simon’s lessons and seen that his confidence has massively improved in terms of his delivery,’ she says. ‘I can also see that his students automatically go to use representations because they’ve become familiar with them in his lessons. And his expectations are high. Students are always expected to use mathematical language.’

Similar opportunities in 2022/23

The CPD programme that Simon has been on will be available through every Maths Hub in 2022/23. Each hub will bring a small group of non-specialists together, led and guided by an expert on maths and professional development. Some courses are starting early, in the first half of the 2022 summer term, to get a head start for September teaching. If you are interested in finding out more, either for yourself, or for a teacher at your school, contact your local Maths Hub.

Might this suit you, or a colleague?

The free CPD programme for secondary non-specialist maths teachers will be running in 2022/23, and in some places starting early, in the 2022 summer term.

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