This network of primary schools has been working together for about two years. It was established by Clare Rafferty (Mathematics Subject Leader at Holly Mount Catholic Primary School) following an NCETM conference and her introduction to the concept of Mathematics Knowledge Networks. The initial impetus for this collaboration was to discuss, develop and share good practice on a range of challenging initiatives, providing an additional forum for numeracy subject leaders on the principle of ‘United we Conquer!’ As well as working together on APP, Catch Up Numeracy, and provision for Gifted and Talented, the group has also tackled the emphasis of the revised national curriculum by developing problem-solving opportunities.
Holly Mount Catholic Primary School is a Roman Catholic School, housed in an impressive building in beautiful grounds, with 1 ½ form entry. There are 11 classes and about 300 children, in Years Reception to 6. There is no nursery but strong links are made with the parish playgroup. A high percentage of families are active parishioners and most children go on to attend the local Catholic High School, which has close links to the school. Results are generally good, though numeracy results had tended to be slightly lower than literacy results. Less than 5 per cent of pupils have free school meals and 38 children are on the SEN register for a variety of physical and cognitive needs. Parental support is very strong, and high standards of discipline and behaviour are maintained. Despite this, many children do have various difficulties and the school works very hard with many agencies to help them to overcome them. The last full Ofsted report in 2006 highlighted that ‘senior staff have successfully managed the involvement of all staff in development planning so that there is an evident team spirit that supports a drive for improvement’.
Holly Mount RC Primary School, Bury
St Josephs and St Bede’s RC School, Bury
Our Lady of Lourdes RC School, Bury
St Joseph’s RC School, Ramsbottom
Guardian Angels RC School, Bury
St Marie’s RC School, Bury
The ethos of the school is reflected in Clare’s drive to create and maintain an effective network. She identified a need for a small network of teachers from schools in similar situations to allow them to come together and pool their resources at a time of change to supplement the work of the Local Authority consultants. Her drive is to improve the understanding of mathematics for pupils, and she recognised that by sharing their expertise and concerns, teachers could identify and meet their common CPD needs more effectively and efficiently.
The group has identified a number of aims under the overarching objective of helping each other to further develop effective teaching and learning of numeracy within their own schools. They harness the power of discussion and sharing of both ideas and resources to improve practice across the network. The Local Authority provides a forum for addressing current issues on a large scale, but the purpose of this network is to allow the group to explore ways towards shared goals in a smaller, supportive environment.
Leadership and Management
Having initiated the project, Clare continues to host meetings at Holly Mount, as well as to chair and minute the meetings. Her enthusiasm for the project is evident in her communications, and has spread to the rest of the group, after some initial reservations. Decisions are made collectively, and responsibility for carrying forward and acting on recommended items is shared equally.
The network has discussed a range of CPD topics, helping teachers to stay abreast of new developments, and share the evaluation of teaching and learning in their schools. It has also undertaken some specific projects impacting directly on the pupils, for example a ‘Brainiac Challenge’ in the local High School. Pupils have also benefited from a shared approach to developing teaching methods and materials for the Gifted and Talented, and all pupils are developing their reasoning and problem solving skills as a result of collaborative focus on this area of the revised National Curriculum. The group has extensively discussed and developed the use of APP as an assessment tool and its use as a planning tool to identify next steps for pupils.
A grant was provided for the group to become an NCETM Mathematics Knowledge Network (MKN), and this is supported by senior leadership teams committing to pay for a ‘Catch Up Numeracy’ course. This will ensure that teachers and teaching assistants can attend relevant training. Network meetings have been held in twilight sessions, relying on the enthusiasm and goodwill of members. It is planned to use some of the MKN funding to support attendance at meetings to share the intervention strategies.
Within the school, Clare has supported a colleague in setting up a parallel Literacy Network, and has also presented at the Local Authority Numeracy Subject Leaders’ meeting to try to encourage colleagues within the LA to develop networks in their cluster groups. She has also presented at an NCETM conference to demonstrate and promote the benefits of the effectiveness and benefits of working collaboratively.
Follow up activities
Work this term includes a visit to a school which holds a 'challenge Friday' every week which has proved very successful in many ways. This is leading to discussion on the many ways that the group can filter more problem solving aspects into their own schools. A focus on multiplication methods is also being shared, with a network meeting as well as classroom testing. A Year 6 challenge event at the common feeder high school, St Gabriel’s RC High School, is planned and another year 4/5 challenge at the local high school is scheduled for early next year.
The network is set to continue to build on the enthusiasm built up so far, and members are motivated to undertake new projects in the present academic year. The strategy of regular meetings and shared ownership has proved very motivating, and the combined forces of the team have ensured that senior leadership teams are open to supporting the work of the network. The network may be extended to include more schools in the future.
Key Influential Factors:
- The network provides a supportive environment for teachers to discuss and develop good practice, particularly when addressing new initiatives
- The use of time and resources for individuals and individual schools is optimised through shared projects
- The group is empowered by making decisions collectively and taking equal responsibility for acting on them
- A very enthusiastic coordinator supplies a venue, chairs meetings, takes and distributes minutes to facilitate the smooth running of the network
- Pupils are benefiting directly through the joint planning of activities as part of the basis of CPD both through special events and through improved use of assessment to inform planning
For further information contact:
Clare Rafferty firstname.lastname@example.org