Harrow LA has a programme for the NQTs in its ten high schools, with two full days’ input from the secondary mathematics consultant. To build on this, the consultant worked with one subject leader and a CPD leader to help plan, monitor and review a programme that aimed to identify an effective model for supporting the professional development of 20 teachers in their second to fifth year. This involved:
- twilight meetings with participants to discuss the programme, identify support
- materials and resources and plan how to use new ideas
- follow-up collaborative sessions to plan, review and refine
- use of a collaborative peer network to develop and strengthen aspects of participants’ teaching.
Input was provided by the mathematics consultant and two mathematics ASTs. The first meeting took place early in the spring term. Activities from the (then) DfES Standards Unit pack Improving Learning in Mathematics (2005) were used. Participants were not familiar with the pedagogy on which they are based. Most of the meeting was spent on sharing experiences of using similar activities in previous lessons and suggestions for participants’ chosen foci. Pairs of teachers agreed to work together, communicating by e-mail where they were not in the same school.
At the second meeting later in the spring term, teachers reported on what they had tried out, successes and areas for further development. Some had decided to change their focus. Two teachers had tried lesson sequences where pupils in groups prepared presentations and ‘taught’ the rest of the class. Other lessons discussed included:
- D/E level year 10 group with demotivated pupils – activities to make them think and gain better understanding of algebra
- Year 9 mathematics lessons planned as part of a cross-curricular integrated project to build pupils’ Functional Skills and address Every Child Matters outcomes
- aiming at better outcomes with a low ability year 9 set, some weaker and others disaffected – addressing the problem of some pupils becoming disengaged when expected to work independently
- higher order questioning.
The project leader reported that, although the participants benefited from their involvement, few really carried one aspect through and there was fall-off in attendance at the two remaining meetings. Keeping up with the rest of their teaching, parents' evenings and reports meant they couldn't put as much time to planning as they had hoped and time to liaise with others was limited. Extra work involved in preparing for an extra year group due to join the schools in the autumn term added to these teachers’ workloads during this period.
More positive outcomes from this project were reported by the project leader, with teachers in their second to fifth years valuing good resources as stimulus for discussion and ‘doing some maths’ together. Meeting in a group with colleagues from other schools allowed teachers to exchange effective practice and build confidence, as did input and support from more experienced, practising teachers such as ASTs and mathematics consultants.