Case Study E:
I’m the subject leader for mathematics in a high attaining comprehensive. Analysing data has never been a problem for me. Every July and September I produce Year 9 and Year 11 reports for SLT which highlight the attainment of girls/boys and different ability groups. I was keen to focus more on the progress of different groups and identify actions which would improve these rates. My first problem was not having the required comparative data for Year 9. I knew the two levels of progress figure for Key Stage 3 but didn’t know how this varied according to starting point i.e. I suspected that pupils entering secondary school on Level 3 have slower rates of progress than those entering on Level 5 but did not have the national data to make comparisons. I had to contact my LA mathematics consultant to obtain the breakdown of the two levels of progress rates. My headline figure for level 5+ of 87% was masking the fact that pupils who entered the school on Level 5 were not making as good progress as the national picture suggested: 68% compared to a national figure of 80% (the overall two levels of progress national figure was 57%).
When I raised the issue of progress of higher attainers with my department, the teachers where not sure how to generate improvement (and were a little defensive); they were certainly working hard (both teachers and pupils!). I had seen the Making Good Progress in Key Stage 3 Mathematics publication at a SL meeting but until then had not given it much thought. I ordered copies for the department and used the ‘Obstacles hindering progression from Level 5 to Level 7’ statements to start off discussion concerning the characteristics of the target pupils but more importantly, we used the ‘actions’ section to help focus us on what to do. Once these generic actions were identified staff were given the task, in pairs, to come up with ideas/resources/guidance to make them happen in classrooms.
I asked each pair of teachers to lead a 30 minute slot at subsequent departmental meetings to provide support for the rest of us. This generated a real buzz.
Please note that although my department made use of the ‘Level 5 to 7’ aspects from the Making Good Progress publication, it does contain similar prompts for other ability groups. Also, the progress figures which I have quoted may be out of date by now.
Case Study F:
I’ve been a mathematics subject leader for four years but found myself struggling with how to improve my department’s self evaluation. Using data to judge effectiveness and trigger intervention was definitely one of our strengths. I heard other maths subject leaders talk about the power of ‘pupil voice’ to steer improvement but did not have any examples of how to go about it and was worried that some colleagues would feel uncomfortable with this. As a last resort, I contacted our LA mathematics consultant who agreed to visit my school to map out how the views of pupils might be elicited to good effect.
We decided on the following course of actions:
- use this series of questions as a starting point
- put the issue of pupil voice on the next meeting agenda with a view to:
- agreeing the boundaries and guidance given to pupils concerning how to complete the questionnaire
- altering the questions to better suit the aim of the exercise
- deciding on how the questionnaire might be used in conjunction with group pupil interviews
- plan to talk the idea through with my line manager.
The outcome of the departmental meeting was that the we decided to focus on Year 10; to delete question 2 from the questionnaire, amalgamate questions 1 and 3 and add two extra questions about whether or not lessons in Year 10 were any different to lesson in Key Stage 3 and how long they spent doing homework. We also deleted the ‘Maths Teacher’ heading although leaving in the ‘Maths Set’ heading still left it obvious which teacher was being referred to! Questions were agreed for me to use in follow-up interviews with two small sample groups of Year 10 pupils. These included: describe a typical maths lesson; are there any activities in other subjects which you would find useful to use in maths lessons?
I was able to summarise the outcomes of the questionnaires and interviews without focusing on individual teachers. The issue of maths being seen as important but boring came to the fore although the pupil responses did vary according to which teacher they were taught by. This issue became the single biggest focus on the departmental improvement plan. It was felt that addressing it would have a real impact in classrooms rather than paperwork exercises. I feel that using a starting point (the pupil voice document) saved time but that it was crucial that the whole department was included in the process of identifying the aspect for improvement. Every member of the department is now tasked to bring an example of ‘non-boring’ Year 10 mathematics to departmental meetings. The department has also agreed the success criteria for their improvement. The questionnaires and interviews will be repeated at the end of the year.