Penketh High School, Warrington
Penketh High School is a large 11-18, community comprehensive school of about 1330 pupils to the west of Warrington. The school has a Sixth Form of 130 students. Penketh became a specialist media and visual arts college in September 2005 and now has a growing and national reputation for excellence in media and visual arts work. The school also has a strong profile for partnership working in the locality, not only through our media work but with primary school links; involvement in the Extended Services Cluster for West Warrington; representing schools on the local Neighbourhood Networking Group; involvement in the School Sports initiative to deliver the five hours offer; heritage work with local residents’ groups and global links with two African schools.
Penketh High is situated in an area of broadly average socio-economic circumstances. Approximately half of the pupils are from areas close to the national averages for socio-economic indicators. However, the school does draw 25% of pupils from more disadvantaged areas of Warrington.
The school holds several awards including: Artsmark Gold, Sportsmark Silver, Healthy Schools, Investors in Careers and Investors in People and International Schools Award.
The intake is broadly average in terms of ability. Exam results show an increasing trend over the last 3 years and further improvement is expected this year.
The school has several other adults who work alongside teachers in all areas of the curriculum. Two of these work closely with in mathematics. One is a mathematics department teaching assistant and the other a cover supervisor.
The teaching assistant (TA) has worked at the school for 3 years. Initially her appointment was for general support work but now her support is wholly in mathematics. This move to a specialist role was at the initiative of the school management. She is now very comfortable in her role within the mathematics team. She has good subject knowledge through her own GCSE and Numeracy qualifications and is able to access further training. This is offered through school and local authority programmes as well as via courses she finds herself.
Most of her work is with lower-ability pupils but there is increasingly a move for her to support “borderline” students in Key Stage 4 with preparation for GCSE. At different times she will work 1-to-1 with a child, support in the classroom or work outside the classroom with small withdrawal groups, depending on the needs of the subject leader.
She has made use of Secondary National Strategy “Springboard 7” and other materials as well as a number of maths games and “mystery” problems received at recent training provided by the local authority workforce development team and has cascaded many of these ideas and materials to other colleagues through the in-house network. She also enjoys a role in the planning of such work for her groups and is able to share ideas and successes with teachers. While planning for the in-class support is led by the teachers, liaison with teaching assistants is a key feature. Teaching assistants have access to the department medium-term plans so she can inform herself ahead of lessons.
Teaching and learning development is a significant priority for TAs at Penketh and she has promoted many of the activities she has received from training via the shared area on the school network. She is very keen to extend her role and influence through HLTA (higher level teaching assistant) training in the future.
The cover supervisor’s work will require that she delivers work set by other teachers but she nevertheless finds herself needing to interpret and explain key ideas to the children with whom she works.
Both are very alert to the needs informal assessment as a means of moving pupils on from where they are and are able to support teachers with some of the tasks around APP [Assessing Pupils’ Progress] and feed this data back to teachers.
Both enjoy professional development through courses and workshops in school, external courses and local authority networks with the consultant. The teaching assistant has recently begun to access material on the NCETM portal, in particular the self-evaluation tools. Her close working relationship with the mathematics team in school through department meetings has provided a further source of CPD (continuing professional development).