How 1-to-1 Maths Should Be Done: An Assistant Headteacher’s Review

Walton-Le-Dale Primary School Assistant Head Pete Richardson’s review of Third Space Learning’s 1-to-1 Key Stage 2 Maths intervention programme has been reposted with permission from his blog. 

“Sometimes a resource or company comes along that you just have to, review, write about and share. This is one of those times.”

The company? Third Space Learning. The resource? 1-to-1 Mathematics for the 21st Century.

What does that mean? It means that they utilise technology to set up 1-to-1 with tutors from the other side of the world. This means it is cheaper for you as a school to implement. ie better value for money for the same amount of 1-to-1 time spent using traditional methods. But the hidden benefits make this an even more attractive proposition.

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Weekly 1-to-1 Maths tuition

Let me set the scene. Third Space offered one child in our school 5 hours of 1-to-1 as a taster over 5 weeks. I would then give them feedback on what worked well and what they could improve. I begrudgingly agreed as you really can’t turn away any support for a child, especially when they are in Year 6! So I dug out a 7 year old-ish i3 Acer laptop (you know the kind, the one that has to be plugged in after 10 minutes because the battery is shot and the usb ports are a bit iffy) and grabbed an ‘old school’ mic headset (£2.99 stylee – no fancy USB stuff). We set a regular date and time and selected a child.

For the sake of this post, let’s call the child ‘Harry’. He was selected as he is generally up for a challenge and fairly amenable. Harry also has a mum who works as a TA in school (although that had no bearing on why we selected him. More on that later…) He has always been ‘okay’ with Maths but since the new curriculum has been introduced, he has struggled a little more and has slid off track. Not by a million miles, but enough to make you worry that with the usual boosters and Year 6 style additional work he still might not achieve the ‘magic 100’.

Harry’s teacher set the learning objectives

Harry’s teacher selected some initial objectives for him to cover during his 1-to-1 session and we briefed Harry that he would be speaking to a tutor for 45 minutes 1-to-1, that he was free to ask his tutor any questions at any point if he was confused, and that he needed to try his hardest (of course!)

So far so good. But it was the next stages I was most sceptical of. Namely technical issues and the tutor.

Technical set-up was very straightforward

Before Harry could start his sessions, someone needed to spend 10 minutes over the phone doing a hardware check. I took the hit being ‘the computing guy’ in school. A UK representative from Third Space called me on my mobile, gave me a website to login to and we ran through a couple of checks. I then put the phone down and we moved to browser based communication.

I have to say I was expecting lag or delay in the communication and jerky ‘nothing is on screen then suddenly everything is there’ type experience with drawings. None of this happened. Instead I could hear the tech guy with absolute clarity.

We tested out using the online classroom, using the drawing tools with ease and no delay. The classroom also includes the usual chat and typing functions you would expect with any ‘Online Meeting’ type package. All was well and we were ready for Harry’s initial session.

How was the first 1-to-1 Maths lesson? “Great!”

I was teaching during Harry’s first session. However, his teacher had PPA during that time and wanted to see how it worked and how he got on. So after the session I asked her. Her response was that ‘it was great!’.

Here is the general gist of the conversation we had:

Could you hear the tutor okay?

Yes, absolutely fine, I didn’t realise they were American.

They’re not. What about the sound quality?

Oh that was fine, Harry seemed to really enjoy it all. (I knew at this point all the speaking side of things was spot on as they would definitely have lingered on the questions asked so far if it hadn’t been).

So the tutor was alright with him?

Yes, yes they were chatting away together quite happily. (Pretty impressive).

How did the actual Maths go?

Good. Harry seemed to really understand. I think now that I know what he is doing we can give him a few harder objectives.

Bear in mind the ‘easy’ objective from today was still a Year 6 objective that Harry wasn’t secure in so the tutor had definitely made progress with him!).

On hearing this I saw the teacher’s mindset shifting to seeing she could get real value from the tuition rather than just being intrigued. We discussed which Maths objectives she could ask the tutor to teach Harry next and thus free her up from worryng about embedding that for Harry.

Okay just let them know what other objectives you want focused on. Make sure they are ones he struggles with.

Yes, will do. One thing…it’s my PPA so I could really do with a break…

I getcha. Just put Harry in the library, with the laptop and his headphones and leave him to get on with it. (Usually Third Space will be tutoring groups of 10 or more at a time in one room so they request that there is one adult present to deal with behaviour issues etc.. For us, Harry in the library worked just fine)

Did Harry say anything about it?

He said he thought it was great. I tell you what, I think he got more out of it because it wasn’t with me or TA, he liked it being across the internet.  (I hadn’t anticipated this one but the ‘wow’ factor of technology apparently helped.)

What? I guess they are used to the whole internet communication much more these days and it was just more natural for him?

Yes but I remember when we used to do 1-to-1 or when we take a Year 6 child in the spring term each week and do some 1-to-1 with them and it’s all a bit rushed and they aren’t really engaged. This was different and he really took it. I’m guessing the tutor had a lot to do with this too. (The Third Space Learning tutors are trained to provide a lot of specific praise targeted at improving children’s attitude to Maths and willingness to try new challenges – Growth Mindset strategies abound.)

Okay that’s great, thanks


Detailed session reports prove impact

Honestly, that is pretty much the exact conversation. A few hours later our Head wanted to know how it had gone. By that time I’d also got the unexpected delight of a weekly session report email outlining Harry’s progress during the session which I could also show the Head.

But it’s a great idea as then it can feed into your planning or you can tick off skills or get him to use and apply them in problems if you know exactly how it has gone. It even had a section on behaviour and engagement. ie you can show the impact the 1-to-1 has had (assuming Harry can then use and apply those skills independently)..

Second lesson and a TA’s review

A week later was his second session and both our Head and his mum, the TA wanted to ‘listen in’ for a while. As is typical, something cropped up for our Head (he is planning to drop in next week!) but Harry’s mum managed to grab 10 minutes to listen in. She obviously had a very unique perspective and one that is not usually able to be voiced in these kinds of situations. Fortunately she too was impressed.

The most important part for her wasn’t that he was ‘going to get help at getting to 100’ but that her son, who has never found Maths particularly ‘natural’ was getting some additional support, which would help his confidence and help him be better at Maths and in the real world.

And that’s it! Our experience so far. So as you can see, it’s been quite difficult to give feedback on what to improve!

Value for money 1-to-1 tuition

One thing I would say is that it being 1-to-1 personalised tuition, it is more expensive than some other KS2 maths intervention programmes, and you’ll need to allocate budget for 10-15 pupils. But, from what I’ve seen, unlike some other interventions, it works, and for me that’s value. But it all depends on how many pupils you have who would significantly benefit from it. And being online, it is a lot more affordable than the alternatives.

To secure your budget and support your efforts to narrow the attainment gap, you could target Pupil Premium children who are in danger of being off track or are off track. Or your LAC and adopted children. Or maybe those children like Harry, who deserve to have something put in place to help them reach their potential.

A final point worth mentioning is that as a school signed up for Third Sapce Learning’s 1-to1 Maths tuition, you get to access an online ‘curriculum builder’ of 270 lesson which you can use in classes across the school – not just with those pupils receiving the 1-to-1 tuition. Nice and simple. Nice and quick

Impact of Growth Mindset work in Maths

I hope to report back after Harry has finished his sessions as I’m interested to see how the trainer’s questioning, growth mindset, support and challenge has affected his progress (all key areas that Third Space trainers heavily promote in their sessions, which is handy for us as we are assimilating a growth mindset approach in our school this year!)

If this post has whetted your appetite as much as the sessions for Harry have for me and our school, book a demo to ask your questions and find out more.

Disclaimer: Neither I nor my school have received any money or gift other than the stated 5 x 1 hour 1-to-1 sessions.

Liked this? If you think your pupils need support in Maths, read our blog: So You Think your KS2 Pupils Need a Maths Interventions?

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