Sheffield Springs Academy, Sheffield
This is a new school to the south of the city. It is part of United Learning Trust, which is working at the leading-edge of the government's Academy programme, helping to positively transform secondary education in challenging urban areas by providing Academies that energise, enhance and improve the lives of children.
Sheffield Springs Academy opened in 2006, moving to new £30m state-of-the-art facilities and boasts a complementary and collaborative Sixth Form. The academy's specialism is performing arts with a theme of business and enterprise. The Sixth Form is a joint provision between Sheffield Park and Sheffield Springs Academies and there are now 120 post-16 students.
In November 2009 the Sheffield Springs Academy hosted the first Yorkshire regional SEN mathematics conference for over 40 teachers and teaching assistants from schools across the region. Plans are under way for a second conference which is hoped will become an annual event.
In 2010 69% of students achieved 5 or more A* to C GCSE grades or equivalent, with 32% of students achieving 5 or more A* to Cs including English & Maths.
The school has several teaching assistants (TAs) some of whom work more closely with children in mathematics; some can be considered as “specialists” in mathematics. One has worked at this school as TA and HLTA for more than 10 years, supporting teaching and learning in a wide range of subjects. His strengths lie in science and mathematics and it is particularly in the latter where he believes he has most to offer. Initially he was appointed to provide general support for lower-ability pupils and this now includes any pupils on “school action” programmes, especially the intervention and “catch-up” programmes. His own view is that he is a key member of the mathematics / SEN teaching team and leads a group of TAs supporting in mathematics.
His strengths are centred on his sound subject knowledge and good relationships with children, other TAs and teachers. He tends to work mostly with small groups in maths classes and sometimes leading withdrawal groups. He will also support intervention classes in KS4.
He takes informal responsibility for planning and delivery, liaising with class teachers on the topics and objectives in up-coming lessons. At times he will provide a “starter” activity or promote a plenary reflection with a group of pupils. In most cases he will follow the teachers’ lead with in-class support, on occasion offering a more-active role in assessment. Teachers do value highly this work which eases their own workload and can provide quality data and feedback to pupils.
The school SENCO (special needs coordinator) has a mathematics background and teaching assistants are managed by the SENCO who shares responsibility for their development in mathematics with the mathematics subject leader. School-based continuing professional development (CPD) and team meetings are arranged through this line-management. Some teaching assistants are using the NCETM self-evaluation tools; most working on improving subject knowledge. Development of pedagogy, especially around questioning and dialogue, are priority areas within the learning support / invention community in school.
The SENCO very much wishes to promote development of TALK in mathematics to support questioning and assessment strategies and practical learning with the least-able pupils and teaching assistants play a big part in this work. The school also plans to engage more with Secondary National Strategy materials [Progression maps, Springboard, Wave 3, etc] and to make use of selective and specific ICT applications to enhance pupils’ learning. Teachers and TAs working in mathematics are part of this programme to enable more children to access and achieve mathematical understanding.
Meetings with other mathematics-based TAs in Sheffield have taken place at the professional development centre, sometimes with the support of regional NCETM colleagues and TAs have been invited to use the HLTA Forum . There is an active CPD programme in school led by the mathematics subject leader and SENCO with support from external consultants and regional conferences and teaching assistants are included in all of these.