Case Study C - three small schools: part of a federation
I We have been federated for three years. The schools are geographically very close, situated within nine miles of each other. Within the three communities that feed our schools there is a huge spectrum of social differences from affluent families to those bordering the poverty line.
As a federation we are passionately pursuing educational excellence with our children and communities. We are able to offer ‘the best of both worlds’ - individually, we are able to offer all the advantages of a small school, e.g. the caring and supportive ‘family type’ environment but as a group we can also offer the benefits of the larger school.
After our initial consultation with our LA mathematics consultant we decided to look at two of the ‘Key Elements of Subject Leadership’ in the EiML materials: ‘Visions and Aims’ and ‘Learning Environment and Resources’.
We chose ‘Visions and Aims’ for a different number of reasons these being that we have recently had new staff to the schools, restructured existing staff and we felt the mathematics had been overlooked due to the extra pressure on raising standards in Literacy. Firstly we used the questions below which we took from the materials:
- do all teaching staff have a clear sense of why mathematics is important for the development of all children?
- do all teachers enjoy mathematics and mathematics teaching and actively promote the subject?
- do all children enjoy learning mathematics both in school, at home and outside the classroom?
- do all parents, governors and other stakeholders present and encourage a positive image of mathematics
- is there a ‘buzz’ about the school for the subject?
We as subject leaders audited, observed and interviewed children, staff and parents in order to get an overview of our present attitudes towards mathematics. We then used the ‘moving to the next level’ questions to identify the steps which would help us and our colleagues to move from level 3 to level 2.
Our second focus was the ‘Learning Environment and Resources’ section. We have felt for a while that across the three schools the classroom environment hasn’t always provided opportunities for children to practice problem solving skills in line with the working wall and sequence of learning. We identified constraints that were present in our schools. These ranged from lack of resources, inaccessibility and common demands put on class teachers who have four year groups in one class, high percentage of SEN, two Key Stages in one class and lack of adult support.
Firstly we read the materials and case studies from the EiML website and we talked about how, even though there was no ‘answer’ to our problem that actually having the website materials enabled us to set an action plan to support our colleagues. We did pull on resources such as the audit and pictures of vibrant classroom displays to support the teachers and enable them to take ownership of their displays.
We have taken resources, such as the BEAM Year 1 and 2 Problem Solving pack and other published materials such as the Primary National Strategy Publication “Mathematical Challenges for More Able Pupils”. We also directed colleagues to resources to challenge the more able such as NRICH as well as altering our medium term planning to allow for unit problem solving activities allowing for differentiation across a Key Stage.
From using the materials it has enabled us to reflect on the position of mathematics in our school curriculum. Reading the different case studies has allowed us to discuss similarities and differences highlighting areas for development in our own schools and provided alternatives or possiblities for improving the situation which we find ourselves in.
From working with the materials we perceive that we are working within band three from Core Responsibilities (Primary): Developing a common purpose and a shared culture. In our schools it is evident that:
- a vision statement exists, but not all staff have contributed to it. It has little impact on classroom practice.
- the school informs, and tries to involve, children, teachers and parents. This often proves to be a one-way process.
- teachers’ enjoyment of mathematics is inconsistent and sometimes negative. There is some informal talk about mathematics and the teaching of it.
- learning environments are rarely updated and the quality of displays needs to be improved.
- children’s attitudes to mathematics are variable and often reflect the enthusiasm and approach of individual class teachers. There is little appreciation for the importance of mathematics.
Having this awareness it is essential that we take steps to raise aspirations and attitudes. We feel we have identified clear manageable goals which we are putting into the school development plan as of Autumn term 2010 with key priorities, success criteria, plan of action, opportunities to monitor the plan and evaluate the impact.