Third Space Learning Review: How Morland Primary Boosted Maths Engagement

Morland C of E Primary School in Ipswich signed up for online one to one maths tuition from Third Space Learning in 2016, with the intent of helping a select group of Year 4 and 5 pupils. In recent years with the subsidised funding provided by the National Tutoring Programme, they have made further use of the interventions to help provide catch up for lost learning caused by the lockdown.

We sat down with Tim White, the Assistant Headteacher and Will Marsburg, a HLTA who oversees the day to day running of the sessions and was responsible for all online learning during lockdown, to understand the challenges they faced when pupils returned to the classroom after lockdown, how they boosted confidence and what their long-term plans are to keep engagement high.

We asked them a series of questions about their experience with Third Space Learning…

Why did you originally choose to implement one to one tuition?

Tim: We initially signed up with Third Space Learning 4 years ago because we had a group of Year 4 and 5 pupils who we knew needed more targeted support to achieve in maths, but we just didn’t have the staffing to provide it ourselves.

Third Space Learning seemed to be the perfect solution, as not only did it provide solutions to these challenges, but was also incredibly straightforward to get started!

The introduction of a subsidy from the National Tutoring Programme meant that in recent years, we’ve been able to use Third Space Learning to provide “catch up” tutoring to even more pupils to help mitigate the impact lockdown had on maths attainment. We are very impressed with how well our pupils have responded to Third Space Learning.

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How would you describe your school’s Third Space Learning experience?

Will: Very positive. Along with providing an effective and worthwhile service, any issues we may have had have been rectified incredibly quickly. It is great knowing that should we not know how to do something, such as set something up, then nine times out of ten your staff will be able to advise or fix it with a simple phone call.

We have also found that accessing the lessons, particularly when this had to be done from home during school closures, is straightforward. This has multiple benefits, as not only does it mean that if a child is at home due to lockdown or illness etc. they do not necessarily have to miss a lesson, it also means setting up for the sessions in school does not take up much staff time. 

Tim: I would also add that there are a wide variety of “objectives” for teachers to select, and all tutors seem to be engaging, knowledgeable and attentive to the needs of our pupils.

On my end, which is mostly the booking side of things, this has been very straightforward and self-explanatory. Third Space Learning has also been very understanding when we have had school closures/timetable changes due to lockdowns etc. resulting in home learning – all of which is very appreciated!

Watch the following video, to hear Will talk in more depth about the National Tutoring Programme and how it has allowed them to continue to boost maths engagement through our interventions…

How has your school’s experience changed over time?

Tim: From our initial usage of Third Space Learning (in 2016/17) to now, our experience has become a lot smoother – the web application runs significantly better on our laptops/wifi than it did before, likely due to upgrades at our end.

We have definitely seen an improvement in the tech over time, meaning staff aren’t required to help pupils during the sessions with the technical side of things. This has been great from a COVID standpoint, as it means fewer teachers getting within 2m of the children.

Will: From the start of this year (2021) to now, we have changed how we do things with Third Space Learning quite significantly. I now make sure that all pupils doing a session in school are well spaced around the classroom, as this helps them to stay focused during the whole session. I also remind all staff at the start of the week to choose learning objectives for those pupils for whom we’re selecting lessons for each week rather than using Third Space’s diagnostic assessment option, giving them more time to consider what lesson a particular child may benefit from.

Finally, we now know to allow for a few minutes before the session to ensure the microphone check is done properly, and also to give the children some time to relax/get in the right headspace before beginning!

Group of pupils working together at a table.
Morland C of E Primary School has around 400 pupils with higher than national levels of pupil premium pupils, meaning the National Tutoring Programme has greatly benefitted their school.

What impact does Third Space Learning have in your school?

Will: A number of teachers have told me that they can see an improvement in both the ability and confidence of the pupils who are doing Third Space Learning.

I think it is really helpful that it provides a chance for the children to see maths from a different viewpoint/perspective, different from the normal classroom-based approach.

Tim: The computer skills our pupils have developed through Third Space Learning should also be acknowledged, as there is a noticeable improvement in the children’s typing skills after partaking in the Third Space Learning sessions.

Their general confidence around a computer is seen to improve significantly throughout their sessions, which with so many things moving to be online nowadays is a great skill-set to have. Not only does it make the sessions more rewarding but it has impacted these pupils’ progress in other subjects, where they have been able to apply this skill-set to any online work in their classes outside of the sessions.

Computer screen image, showing a 'Session Report' example.
In every session, each pupil works independently, with their computer and set of headphones and after each session teachers receive a ‘session report’ showing engagement, enjoyment, session value and pupils’ effort during the session.

How do you know the one to one tuition is (still) having an impact in your school?

Tim: We can see it! Feedback from pupils, teachers and parents clearly shows that it is having a measurable academic impact, along with all of the other positives mentioned above.

Will: From my perspective, children are still excited for their Third Space Learning sessions and continue to enjoy them. Their participation during the lessons has also not waivered – a clear sign of Third Space Learning’s continuing impact!

Why do you still use Third Space Learning?

Will: The children really enjoy it, and it’s having a significant impact on their attainment.

 Tim: The fact that all parties involved – teachers, pupils and parents – can see how worthwhile it is!

Can you think of any pupils in particular who have really benefited from Third Space Learning? Why?

Tim: At the end of the school day, a number of pupils’ parents have spoken to me at the gate to say how much their child enjoys Third Space Learning and how they look forward to it every week!

Teachers have also been saying how they have noticed a significant increase in the confidence levels of their pupils who do Third Space Learning – both in maths and in other subjects!

The impact is definitely clear! We are also starting to see improvements in maths ability for those who are taking part in Third Space Learning and those who took part last term.

Will: There are actually a number of pupils who, when I see them around the school, will ALWAYS ask me if today is “their Third Space Learning day”!

We even have one pupil, a boy in year 4, who recently said that Third Space Learning is “his favourite lesson of the week – even better than PE” – rare praise from a year 4 boy!

What’s been your favourite Third Space Learning moment/memory?

Will: For me, it was when a year 5 girl asked if she could do additional sessions after school, as she was enjoying her weekly sessions so much!

Tim: Adding to what Will said, maths had never been the strongest subject for the girl in question, so it was especially lovely to see her enjoying Third Space Learning so much!

To find out more about how Morland Primary has boosted maths engagement, read their full case study.

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