Beardwood Humanities College, Blackburn
Beardwood is an 11 to 16 secondary school for 700+ boys and girls on the west of the town of Blackburn. The school is a specialist Humanities College. Children attend Beardwood from all districts of the borough of Blackburn with Darwen. Over 20 different languages are spoken and many children have little or weak English.
In 2010 54% of children achieved 5 A* to C including English and mathematics in GCSE. The figure for 5 A* to C in mathematics was 61%.
The school has a large number of teaching assistants who generally work supporting children and teachers in all subjects. Two were identified as providing a bigger proportion of their time in mathematics. One now is fully deployed within mathematics while the other offers just below half her time. Both moved to more maths-specific support as school managers recognised their skills in this area and saw this as a response to improving standards in mathematics. Both are qualified at NVQ level 2 and one is currently studying for a mathematics degree at the University of Bolton, with aspirations to continue to Qualified Teacher Status once she has her degree. She now views herself as offering a more-specialised role within the mathematics team.
Both have good subject knowledge to support well at Key Stage 3 and one continues this into GCSE work. Each identifies her strengths in terms of their methods of solving problems and developing skills. Working with children with several different languages and also those children with weak reading and writing of English, they point to their success in “breaking down words”, offering different explanations and building confidence in pupils. They tend to work mostly through in-class support of lessons which are led and planned by teachers; they work mostly with pupils who are of low ability. One of the teaching assistants is now developing her role with “intervention / borderline support” for GCSE groups.
Both identify as areas for development the need to improve planning generally and each identified approaches to algebra in Y7 and Y8 for pupils at lower levels as a key target for themselves. The “planning” aspect is mostly centred on a need to develop and promote questioning and dialogue as a tool for engaging and focusing pupils, alongside discussion work linked to assessment.
Both are line-managed by the SENCO (Special Needs Coordinator) but do have a strong relationship with the mathematics team and subject leader. One now attends mathematics department meetings. Other teaching assistants will attend meetings arranged by the SENCO, covering all aspects of support across the curriculum, where sharing ideas, including aspects of support for mathematics will be regular items.
Both have been able to access some mathematics CPD in school, including some mathematics meetings, but do take part in frequent informal consultations with mathematics teachers and other teaching assistants. Both have received training from mathematics consultants, which included sampling assessment materials, developing questioning, dialogue and oral work as well as the selection & planning assessment-rich activities. Both took part in a regional SEN mathematics conference for teachers and teaching assistants from a wide range of schools.
Each has registered with NCETM and has engaged with the self-evaluation tools and now plans to work on these with other colleagues in the mathematics department during next term.
One has identified the subject pedagogy as a clear target while other TAs will work with the subject knowledge areas, especially in algebra