Mathletics Testimonial: Using Mathletics in a primary school

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Focus on Mathletics helps Birmingham primary school win National Pupil Premium Award.

Innovative strategies including breakfast and after-school clubs using Mathletics at Parkfield Community School has led to a £100,000 prize from the national Pupil Premium Awards (PPA), recognising schools that have made the best use of the money allocated to them under the government’s pupil premium policy.

National winners of the primary category of the 2015 National Pupil Premium Awards, Parkfield Community School in Saltley, Birmingham, has been using Mathletics as part of its strategy to close the gap between its pupil premium pupils and their peers.

The school’s pupil premium attainment is now significantly above the national average in maths and the inspectors who visited the school as part of the assessment for the award, were particularly impressed by Parkfield’s breakfast and after-school Mathletics homework clubs. The school’s Assistant Headteacher, Maths Lead and Specialist Leader in Education, Helen Hackett, explains how Mathletics is playing an important part in improving the attainment and education of its disadvantaged pupils.

Mathletics at Parkfield Community School - Pupil Premium Award

About the School: An inner-city school in Birmingham, much larger than average with 768 pupils aged from 3-11. More than a third of its pupils qualify for pupil premium, well above the national average. The school also makes provision for pupils excluded from other schools because of behavioural, social and emotional difficulties. Almost all pupils come from a wide range of minority ethnic groups, with just over half of Pakistani background, with the vast majority using English as an Additional Language.

“We have always taken a robust and systematic approach to identifying the challenges our pupils face and the impact that these challenges have on their learning. As the PPA judges recognised, we exhibit a relentless focus on closing performance gaps.

We wanted to offer parents learning opportunities too and engage them in their child’s learning so that they were better able to provide support at home and therefore contribute to the higher attainment of their children.”

Helen Hackett. Assistant Headteacher, Maths Lead and Specialist Leader in Education, Parkfield Community School.

The Issues Faced: “Many of our pupils face specific barriers, linked to their cultural context. Located within a predominantly immigrant community, many parents have English as a second language, or have other language difficulties making them less able to support their child’s learning. So we wanted to offer parents learning opportunities too and engage them in their child’s learning so that they were better able to provide support at home and therefore contribute to the higher attainment of their children.

We also know that many of our pupils live in overcrowded accommodation and that access to a computer and other resources such as time, space, pens and paper may be in short supply at home.

Pupils beginning secondary school with very low numeracy skills but good literacy skills have an exclusion rate twice that of pupils starting secondary school with good numeracy skills. 14-year-olds who have poor maths skills at 11 are more than twice as likely to play truant.

Finally we know that around 90% of new graduate jobs require a high level of digital skills (Race Online 2012), and digital skills are built on numeracy.

That’s why we have a passion for maths at our school!”

A winning strategy with Mathletics…

“We did a great deal of research before deciding which strategies to use. I conducted informal interviews with pupils who were falling behind in maths and struggling with homework to identify their particular problems. These usually turned out to be difficulties at home when competing for computer access and a quiet time and place to complete their assignments.

Armed with all this information, we embarked on a raft of strategies, key among them being to set up breakfast, lunchtime and after school maths clubs using Mathletics. This has significantly improved our maths results.

Our pupil premium children are given first option to attend the breakfast club at 8.30am every morning, and other pupils can fill any remaining spaces. We run the club in our ICT suite which has 30 computers running Mathletics and combine that with a high level of adult support – typically four teachers and teaching assistants who support and guide the children in their work.

80% have attended breakfast club regularly. Further access to Mathletics is available at our lunch time and after school homework clubs and pupils can also use it on an ipad during registration periods.

Because Mathletics is so engaging and fun, the children really do enjoy it and are keen to take up every opportunity there is to get involved. At our school, like many others, we especially like the ‘Live Mathletics’ option and find this is also a nice way in with teachers and parents too – everyone likes a competition! Our parents like the fact that the live maths brings up conversations about different countries and time zones – plus with many of our children having friends and family abroad they particularly enjoy having links with those countries.

A real favourite feature of mine is the concept search dictionary – a function I often find is underused in other schools. With the new curriculum’s increased focus on maths vocabulary, it’s vital that children are up to speed – and this can sometimes be a weak area for teachers too. Certainly lots of parents don’t know what certain maths terms mean and used to ask us for maths dictionaries – but many of these are poor and inaccurate, as can also be the case using a search engine. But within Mathletics, not only do the children get a great explanation of what a particular term means, they are also directed to other areas of maths where it is relevant too.

The support available via the help tab is also first class and the rewards systems are invaluable. As well as the incentives which are built in to the online activities, we make a big deal of certificates and give them out at weekly assemblies, along with other class and whole school rewards.

We also love World Maths Day and it’s a huge event here, again involving parents as well!”

Results: “I am very proud to say that the outcomes have been stunning. In 2014 at Parkfield, 82% of the school’s pupil premium pupils achieved the expected standard in key stage 2 tests at age 11. And 78% achieved at a level above the standard (level 4b+), compared with the national average of 53%.

In 2015 SATS 99% of the pupils achieved their Level 4, 64% achieved Level 5 and 9% Level 6.

Pupils receiving pupil premium met their challenging target in maths – 80%, at the end of KS2. In year 3, our pupil premium children made more progress than non pupil premium children and achieved above the national average in maths.

Our school is recognised as a local maths leader, having this year established a “maths academy” to work with other schools in the region to provide maths education to pupils, and continuing professional development to enhance teacher confidance in teaching maths. It’s great to have this dedicated space as a shining example of the high priority our school places on maths as a vital skill for life – we want children and adults alike to wonder at the beauty of mathematics.

Until now our use of Mathletics has been largely outside the regular school day, but our next plan is to use the resource more during lessons where it will be really helpful because it is mapped to the new, more challenging curriculum.

  • Use breakfast, lunchtime and after 6 school clubs to extend the school day
  • Review the take up of resources such as Mathletics regularly and sort out any instances of low participation immediately
  • Know every child – I am very aware that there are disadvantaged children who just miss the PP classification so I am continually looking to plug any gaps in maths which could be linked to disadvantage
  • Engage parents by providing a range of fun workshops
  • Be rigorous about attendance and support the children in catching up immediately following their return to school
  • Be serious about punctuality. We started school clubs to extend the school day a walking bus which has enabled pupils to arrive at school on time
  • Raise aspirations – primary school children are not too young to visit a grammar school or a university, we take pupils all the time
  • Remember children can be totally switched off maths before they are 11, so it’s important to act early
  • Garner support from the governing body – a governor who shares your passion for maths can be an invaluable ally and support
  • Make sure staff are fully aware of the many features and benefits – I’m always dismayed to find a school where they are not making full use of their resources. Get some competition going between staff, not just the children – it really works!

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