This collaboration, brought about by the isolation felt by each school resulting from its location within the country, has successfully enabled mathematics leaders in five secondary schools to share problems associated with a new mathematics examination at GCSE level, with joint solutions and a procedure for regular joint professional development. Its impact on other subjects is generally positive.
St Ives School is a mixed community, comprehensive school of 670 pupils with Technology College status and is a Leading Edge School. In 2009, 75% of students in Key Stage 3 and Key Stage 4 achieved at least the expected level of progress with many surpassing this target. This places St Ives School as best in the county for this measure. In March 2010 Ofsted reported that ‘the Headteacher and governors have appointed a dynamic senior management team who have only been working together since September 2008. In that relatively short space of time they have demonstrated the drive, determination and passion required of leaders and managers in a successful school.’ Simon Jack, the main contact for this project is Assistant Headteacher, Director of Specialism, Strategic Leader ICT, and Leader of Mathematics.
Cape Cornwall School
Hayle Community School
Humphry Davy School
Mounts Bay School
St Ives School
These are all 11-16 secondary schools
Over the past five years the five schools’ mathematics teams have successfully worked together. The team leaders have met half termly to share good practice and address areas of mutual development. They have worked on projects focusing on teaching and learning, supported by NCETM funding. Lead practitioners from each organisation have met to develop APP resources. In addition, there have also been support meetings organised for NQTs across the five schools.
The aim of the project has been to ensure that all students achieve the best possible outcome from the new GCSE. As a pilot school for the new diploma, St Ives School became aware that even relatively able 14 to 16 year old students struggle. Whilst exam boards have organised events for teachers, they are rarely accessible to remote schools such as these. The examination changes require that students are taught in a different way. By working collaboratively, the schools hope that changes will be implemented quickly by sharing knowledge, experiences and resources. They have found that developing opportunities for teachers to discuss their practice with others boosts the self esteem and motivation of staff.
Leadership and Management structure within lead institution and partnership
The current Headteacher, who five years ago was Deputy Headteacher, set up this initiative. In March 2010 Ofsted observed that ‘the school is in a strong position to accelerate improvement as it is well led and managed by a Headteacher who has a clear vision for the future of the school.’ The school has set a clear vision for success and, since the last inspection, has implemented a wide range of strategies for improvement across all areas of the school. Leaders at all levels share the same vision for improvement, focusing on raising the quality of teaching and learning for all students. The Headteachers and mathematics leaders of all five schools are committed to long-term collaboration.
Development activities and their impact
The strength of the collaborative work has been recognised at a Local Authority level. The team leader from Humphry Davy and the project leader at St Ives were asked to present to all the Mathematics Team Leaders at a County Conference on APP and the use of visualisers in lessons.Earlier in 2010, twenty teachers met at Humphry Davy School to share ideas on APP and rich tasks.
Two meetings for all teaching staff took place in the autumn term 2010. At one of these meetings a representative from AQA came to discuss the new GCSE. This event gave teachers the time to discuss with colleagues their current practice and identify how they will need to adapt. They also identified resources to help with the teaching of the new functional aspects of the curriculum. This model allowed teachers to make significant changes to their practice in a supportive and guided way, by giving them direct access to an assessor and have their questions answered directly. The second meeting for all teaching staff was an opportunity to share initial experiences. Future teaching and learning styles and content were planned together.
Substantial benefit was gained from the opportunity to discuss their perception of the new course and recognise that there are many teachers in the same situation. Shared planning and resources aided the development process for all teachers. In turn, this has had a positive impact on teachers’ self esteem, and thus motivation. Other pedagogical matters that have been explored include differentiation via work set (e.g. mathematics challenges), and intervention using specialist teaching assistants.
Follow up activities
A joint meeting with an official from AQA resulted in a change of strategy for the group. In order not to be part of the first cohort for the new GCSE mathematics arrangements, the group decided to begin the scheme with the current Year 10 who would take the first module in March 2011 rather than that in November 2010, which would have resulted in a too hasty transition from the old to the new.
A new dimension to the partnership has been for some schools to jointly investigate mathematics in the context of work. This initiative has been supported by Cornwall Education Business Partnership (EBP) including: Newlyn Fish Market, South West Water, Tempest Photographers, and a local packaging firm. This has resulted in the formation of new links within the extended locality, enhancing the benefit of collaboration to St Ives and the new schools.
St Ives School takes a lead in seeking additional funding opportunities to increase the impact of their work. This project is the second to be funded by the NCETM.Whilst St Ives School writes the bids, the plans are always shared with partner schools to ensure maximum engagement in the project.
As a result of very successful collaboration, all schools are using the same exam board, and a more united attitude has developed where co-operation for the benefit of all pupils is seen as more important than pursuing a school’s individual status within the community. In the lead institution, talks are in progress with English and ICT, but the dissemination of good practice has not been universally adopted by all departments. The mathematics leader works closely with most other departments regarding, for example: setting, the use of visualisers, and the role of technology.
The success of the collaboration is particularly significant in a local authority that is finding it increasingly difficult to sustain the level of professional development for the whole county that they might wish for. This has provided high motivation for the schools to continue this project. The Headteacher at St Ives School, along with the leader of mathematics, are determined that this pattern of collaboration should continue and be strengthened. The Headteacher is also looking for additional ways to build in sustainability to the school’s staffing structure, and when funding allows, enabling teachers to teach in each other’s schools.
Key Influential Factors:
- Leaders in all the schools share the same vision for improvement, focusing on raising the quality of teaching and learning for all students
- There is high motivation to extend a self-help culture for professional development in this remote corner of the South West
- There is shared sense of common difficulties in all of the participating schools
- The Headteacher of the lead institution began the initiative as deputy and is committed to its continuation
- Sustainability is regarded as a high priority
- The lead institution has played a major role in sourcing funding
For further information contact:
Simon Jack firstname.lastname@example.org