As subject leader I have decided to undertake the following tasks to give us, as a team, a clearer idea of how we are doing and what might need to be improved:
- undertake a programme of lesson observations, focussing on agreed issues and involving all of us as both observers and observed
- interview a sample of students with a focus on their views of mathematics, their progress and their mathematics lessons
- gather the views of teachers and parents / carers
- interrogate attainment and achievement data such as RAISEonline reports and the exam board’s analysis, as well as internal data such as APP periodic assessments
- carry out a work scrutiny focussing on the activities in which students engage during lessons, progression over time or progression of different ability groups
- ask a member of our senior leadership team to carry out a department review with an agreed focus.
In our school we adapted the Ofsted form S4 for faculty purposes. The resulting twelve headings (and prompts) were shared with the mathematics faculty as a first step, and honest feedback gained. I then gathered together this information as part of the process of completing the document. When complete, the form was shared with the whole faculty.
The following list summarises our findings:
What is distinctive about the work of the department?
- high proportion of mathematics specialists
- additional involvements and work of members of staff
- practice that is shared locally
- full range of abilities catered for.
How effective is the department overall?
- Key Stage 3 test, and Key Stage 4 / 'A' Level examination standards (compared against national and county averages)
- Key Stage 2 to Key Stage 3 and Key Stage 4 progression measures (position in national ranking groups)
- Contextual Value Added (CVA) score (compared against national and county figures)
- Key Stage 4 residuals (compared against other departments in school)
- 100% GCSE grade A* to F, including low ability, disaffected, MLD and SEN pupils
- high proportion of take-up on AS courses.
How well do pupils achieve in your department at all Key Stages?
- Key Stage 3 test standards (compared against national and county averages)
- Key Stage 4 examination standards (compared against national and county averages)
- 'A' Level standards (compared against national and county averages)
- CVA score (compared against national and county figures)
- achievement in all Junior, Intermediate and Senior Maths Challenges.
How well are pupils’ attitudes, values and personal qualities developed in your department?
- appreciation of the success of others
- pupils mindful of the reputation of the school and department
- standards of care in work
- feedback from staff covering for absent colleagues
- comments from parents
- lack of equipment brought to school by some
- difficulty in getting books returned on leaving school
- effort in homework.
How effective are teaching and learning in your department?
- evidence from formal and informal lesson observations
- examination results
- support from parents.
How effective is assessment?
- proof-reading of reports
- work-sampling to identify whether policy is followed
- evidence from formal and informal lesson observations
- evidence from tracking.
How well does the curriculum in your department meet students’ needs?
- examination achievement
- pupil groupings
- support classes
- post-16 take-up.
How well do the accommodation and resources meet the needs of the curriculum in your department?
- location of rooms
- learning environment
- ICT hardware
- lack of graffiti
- noticeboards around and outside of the department.
How well does the department work in partnership with parents, other schools and other departments?
- parents: Use of planners, use of letters, reporting, open evening, parents’ evening, informal
- other schools: LA subject leader network meetings, partner primary schools, sharing of good practice, local 11-16 secondary schools (re: post-16 provision)
- departments: informal, contribution to INSET days, contribution to ‘primary challenge’ days.
How effective is leadership of the department?
- progress since last review
- feedback from SMT and external agencies
- performance management.
How effective is management of the department?
- feedback from SMT and external agencies
- regular minuted meetings
- handbook and policies
- data analysis
- performance management.
What are the most significant aids or barriers to raising achievement in your department?
- aids: Vision, parental support, support from SMT/external bodies
- barriers: lack of funding, whole-school approach to discipline, whole-school approach to CPD.
We have been supported by our local authority mathematics consultant, and have been using a Maths on Track (MOT) document provided by the LA team. I looked at the data that we had and used this to complete pages 5 to 12 of the document in advance of the first meeting with the consultant. During this initial meeting, the ‘prompts for discussion’ on pages 3 and 4 were talked through in detail. The consultant then completed a final copy of the MOT document for me as subject leader, and the outcomes of the discussion formed the basis of a support plan for the coming year.
(Excerpts from the Ofsted report Mathematics: understanding the score).
This report offers a range of external perspectives, examples of good practice and indications of national trends and standards which can be very helpful to a subject leader.
Here we have included elements which are relevant to this section on self-evaluation.
Pupils’ performance in tests and examinations
2. In Key Stages 2, 3 and 4, results of national tests and examinations in mathematics have shown an upward trend for several years, although Key Stage 3 results dipped slightly in 2007, following a relatively large rise in 2006. As pupils move through primary and secondary school, they learn more about all areas of mathematics. For example, starting with whole numbers, they move on to decimals and fractions, positive and negative numbers, very large and very small numbers, and eventually on to rational and irrational numbers such as pi () and . Older pupils are increasingly competent at carrying out taught methods, such as solving equations or calculating the volumes of solid shapes. This stands them in good stead when they sit tests and examinations. They find it much more difficult, however, to use the skills they have learnt to solve more unusual problems and to identify connections between different skills and topics.
3. Table 1 shows the proportion of pupils reaching the expected attainment thresholds for each key stage in 2007 compared to 2001 and 2004. It also shows the proportions attaining or exceeding the higher Level 5 at Key Stage 2, Level 6 at Key Stage 3 and grade B at GCSE. More pupils than in the past are making two levels of progress during Key Stage 3, contributing to the increased percentages reaching Levels 5 and 6 by age 14. Even so, the Key Stage 2 and 3 figures of 77% and 76% reaching Levels 4 and 5 respectively still fall well short of the Government’s targets of 85% at each key stage.
Table 1: Pupils reaching the expected attainment thresholds in mathematics for each key stage in 2001, 2004 and 2007
||Percentage of pupils achieving selected threshold indicators
||Government target (and
||Within the Early Learning Goals
|Key Stage 1
|Key Stage 2
|Key Stage 3
|Key Stage 4 (GCSE)
4. The improvements made in Key Stage 3, however, are not built on sufficiently during Key Stage 4. Indeed, pupils’ progress during Key Stage 4 has declined over the past few years. In 2007, 79% of pupils who had reached Level 6 at Key Stage 3 went on to pass GCSE at grade C or higher, and 26% did so from Level 5. These proportions are much lower than the corresponding figures for English and science. For mathematics in 2000, the figures were around 90% and 40% respectively. The question is whether the depth of understanding required to reach Level 5 or 6 in tests at the end of Key Stage 3 is sufficient to prepare pupils for their future study of mathematics. Inspection evidence throws light on this and other factors affecting progress during Key Stages 3 and 4.
5. Participation in AS and A’ level mathematics has increased markedly since the changes to specifications for courses starting in September 2004. This is making up the ground lost following the introduction of Curriculum 2000. A’ level entries among 16- to 18-year-olds exceeded 53 000 in 2007, which is nearing the figure in 2001, having fallen sharply to below 45 000 in 2002 and 2003. The Government’s target of 56 000 entries by 2014 now appears to be within reach. Nevertheless, entries are still considerably lower than the peak of 63 000 in 1990.
6. Mathematics was boys’ most popular subject at A’ level in 2007 and many more boys than girls studied it. Taking into account their GCSE starting points, the achievement of boys and girls is broadly equal. However, students from some minority ethnic groups and those eligible for free school meals are under represented at A’ level. Pass rates at AS level have improved significantly from 69% in 2001 to 81% in 2007, but remain lower than in most other subjects. Although the highest GCSE grades are not specified as prerequisites for advanced level study of mathematics, many students who attained grades C or B at GCSE struggle to gain a pass grade at AS level, and many do not subsequently proceed to A level. This again raises questions about the quality of students’ earlier learning in terms of preparation for further study.
9. Inspectors judge how well pupils have achieved in mathematics when their varied starting points are taken into account. Achievement was judged to be good or better in just over half of the schools visited during the period of this survey (Figure 1).
Figure 1: Achievement in mathematics in the schools surveyed (percentages of schools
Figures should be treated with caution due to sample sizes.
Percentages are rounded and do not always add exactly to 100.
10. Although the proportions were broadly similar in primary and secondary schools, there was a clear difference between the phases in how well pupils learnt mathematics on a day-to-day basis. Secondary pupils made good progress in just under half the lessons observed. Nationally, this needs to be improved if all pupils’ life chances are to be enhanced.
The characteristics of good and weaker subject leadership
69. The effective leaders used data strategically. Robust monitoring, a characteristic of good management, led to the accurate identification of strengths and areas for development but the best leaders took this one step further. They used the outcomes of monitoring and analysis of test results to inform approaches to teaching and learning and the development of the curriculum. They also used professional development opportunities to disseminate and build on good practice and to tackle areas of inconsistency and weaknesses. Effective practitioners helped colleagues to develop aspects of their work. Occasionally, this included developing teachers’ knowledge of mathematics, as well as how it might be taught. Teachers’ readiness and commitment to giving and receiving such support was a hallmark of the school or department’s ethos. Such an approach was seen not simply in high-achieving schools but also often in those working hard and effectively to improve, sometimes in challenging circumstances.
70. Conversely, weaker leaders tended to rely heavily on their assumptions about the strengths of individual teachers, the degree of consistency, and the extent of teamwork among staff. For example, subject leaders sometimes made assumptions about teachers’ use of activities to support ‘using and applying mathematics’; some senior managers interpreted quiet individual work on textbook exercises as good learning in mathematics. While informal strategies provided some useful insights, they did not reliably uncover weaknesses and pinpoint areas for development. Monitoring which was insufficiently systematic and robust generated too rosy a view of provision and little impetus for improvement.
71. Good leadership was reflected in consistent approaches across a school or department, such as in developing mathematical language and attention to its accurate use. The best examples of this were in primary schools, where staff emphasised the development of pupils’ oral responses as a way of overcoming weaknesses in their communication skills.
There is an annex in the report that gives a useful list of features of mathematics teaching observed between April 2005 and December 2007 by Ofsted.
As such these may be useful lists to stimulate some debate about teaching and learning (both national and within your school) amongst your colleagues.