The maths department at Carisbrooke High School has refocused its approach to teaching mathematics in the last few years with the resulting substantial improvement in results. The school has shared resources and professional development with the maths departments of other schools on the island. Carisbrooke High School maths department has now been commissioned by the LA to set up Learning Centre for Mathematics to support all the schools on the Isle of Wight.
Carisbrooke High School on the Isle of Wight is a large 13-19 comprehensive school with more than 1300 students. The school introduces itself on its website as follows: ‘Our school is a fully inclusive comprehensive community school. All aspects of our work are guided by our values statement. Our school was recently recognised by Ofsted as having an outstanding curriculum providing an extremely wide and diverse range of opportunities for all our learners. Ofsted also judged the way we care for our students and support them through our learning areas, house and pastoral systems was outstanding. We are achieving above national standards on all key measures Our Contextual Value Added measure from 2008 placed us in the top 18% of schools nationally’.
The Headteacher, David Jeapes, has been influential in supporting the mathematics department. David was himself a mathematics teacher in an earlier stage of his career and has been very supportive of the department. He has found resources to reduce class sizes and encouraging staff to visit mainland mathematics departments to investigate approaches they could adapt and develop for Carisbrooke.
All the island’s high schools are involved in the ’Learning Centre for Mathematics’ collaboration
- Carisbrooke High School
- Sandown High School
- Medina High School
- Cowes High School
- Ryde High School
- Christ the King College
The island’s middle schools also have the opportunity to be involved.
Historically, standards of teaching and learning in mathematics have been poor across the island. Over the last few years the mathematics department at Carisbrooke has refocused its approach to teaching with a view to improving the mathematics results. The changes have resulted in substantial increase in A* to C grades from well below national average in 2006 to in line with national average from 2007 to present day. The mathematics department has a large team which works well together to share and exchange resources. There is a fairly flat structure in the department and everyone takes responsibility for some part of the development. The Lead Teacher for mathematics, Louisa O’Sullivan, attends subject leaders meetings and shares some of the resources produced by the Carisbrooke team, with the other schools. As part of the Local Authority’s intention to move from provider to commissioner of services it has set up Learning Centres for five different curriculum areas in each of the island high schools, depending on their strengths. Carisbrooke has been chosen to be the Learning Centre for mathematics, headed up by Louisa O’Sullivan.
The aim of the Learning Centre for Mathematics is to ensure the growth of subject communities where people work together and are happy to share good practice, building on the expertise of the teachers and avoiding ‘re-inventing the wheel.’ Ultimately the aim is to improve the learning experience of pupils throughout mathematics lessons on the Isle of Wight, make pupils more successful learners in mathematics, and improve GCSE results in mathematics across the Island, ensuring that A*-C % is at least in line with the national average.
By sharing resources and best practice, subject communities can work together to improve the learning experience in mathematics for all students on the Isle of Wight, to enable them to be more successful learners who are better equipped for using mathematics in the world in which we live.
Leadership and management structure
The mathematics department at Carisbrooke High School has been funded by the Local Authority (LA) for 2 days a week to set up the Learning Centre for Secondary Mathematics which will provide support, advice and links to resources to support island mathematics teachers’ professional development (PD). Carisbrooke High School has further funded another member of the mathematics department to work alongside the subject leader on this project. The LA has also funded two external consultants to facilitate a needs analysis with mathematics subject leaders in the other high schools. All those involved in the Learning Centre work together to ensure PD needs are met accordingly.
Development activities and their impact
The mathematics team at Carisbrooke High School has worked over the last two years on its own professional development with a focus on making the mathematics learning environment more stimulating, building better relationships with students, and developing resources for their year 11 students for exam preparation. They have shared these resources with other high schools and have put on revision classes for the target students in four out of five of the island high schools. Using funding from NCETM, a series of development meetings was set up to establish good working relationships between mathematics teachers, to share ideas for classroom activities and provide a forum for subject updates and developments. The agenda for each meeting was designed to meet the needs of the individuals attending. There were five meetings in total, held at Carisbrooke High School. These were facilitated by an independent consultant for mathematics on the Isle of Wight. Following the needs analysis, resources and revision sessions aimed at year 11 students were developed by Carisbrooke High School and shared with all island high schools.
Teachers have identified themes for CPD around progression of topics in mathematics such as: how equations develop from year 7 to year 13; best practice in teaching the different levels.
Funding has comefrom the school, NCETM and local authority. The Learning Centre has been commissioned for academic year 2010 - 2011, and then individual schools will be the commissioners for their own support. If the centre is successful and everyone is happy with what is on offer, then they will show this by re-commissioning the centre themselves directly.
Follow up activities
A series of meetings and professional development activities based on the needs of the schools has been set up for the current year. These will be fully evaluated on an ongoing basis.
One of the projects, on functionality, piloted at Carisbrooke High School in June is being rolled out to their entire year 10 cohort in December. This has now been shared with the other island schools in one of the first PD session. This particular activity is best described as a ‘life project. The mathematics is set within a scenario which uses characterisation to draw the students in. The content has been differentiated for foundation and higher level students. The initial pilot was very successful, generating lots of questions and discussion.
The VLE for the Learning Centre is in the process of being set up. This will allow all island mathematics teachers to access resources, links to useful websites and subject developments. This will include contact details for the team at the Learning Centre and details of PD on offer.
Key influential factors
- Head teacher commitment and support in the form of encouragement and ploughing resources into the department
- Committed head of mathematics and mathematics department, working effectively as a team
- Effective use of NCETM funding and local consultant to facilitate relationships and needs analysis across partner schools
- Support of LA in setting up and funding the Learning Centre model
- Need to drive up mathematics results across island (and in school)
- Sharing and exchanging resources
- Negotiating agenda with other schools, taking people on board, and recognising each other’s strengths and weaknesses.
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