Jon Kilbane, Deputy Headteacher & Maths Lead
St Michael's Primary School
We wanted to address the issue with maths reasoning at the school.
We noticed that we had an issue in school specifically around maths reasoning and getting our children to explain their answers. It’s always been the case that gaps varied hugely within each class, but the pandemic has definitely exacerbated this and made it worse. Around 30% of our pupils are eligible for Pupil Premium and we wanted to make sure we were giving them the opportunities they needed, and also using our National Tutoring Programme funding in the best way possible. So, we started exploring our maths tutoring options.
We went for an external tuition provider because it was quicker and easier.
We knew organising and running tutoring in-house was feasible but it’s a big job. There are questions we had to ask ourselves: have you got sufficient staff to do it? Are they familiar with the curriculum for the year group that they might be teaching? If not, what are you going to do about that? In-house would require lots of communication between staff because it’s very unlikely that the children we wanted to get tutored would be working with staff who already knew those children and knew exactly where they were with maths. There was no guarantee that we would have found enough teachers to do it.
Our pupils needed a personalised approach.
There’s lots of research to show the effectiveness of one to one tutoring and we knew that to tackle our children’s difficulties with maths reasoning, we needed a personalised approach. When looking at external providers, we needed to be confident that the tutoring quality was going to be similar to what we could provide in-house.
The one on one approach was a big factor in why we chose Third Space Learning because one to one was something that we wanted for our children.
The children love getting to know their tutors and are so much more confident explaining their reasoning aloud.
Our pupils each have their Third Space Learning tutor that they can practise using their mathematical vocabulary with. In small group tutoring, even in a group of six, you can hide, whereas if it’s one to one and the tutor asks a question, you’re the only one that’s going to be answering it. You’ve got guaranteed engagement — they have to explain their thinking.
The children also have the same tutor week on week so they get the chance to build that rapport with them. Something we didn’t anticipate is that because the online format was novel to the children, it helped their ‘buy-in’ to it which has turned out to be another benefit!
The SATs Revision Programme was really valuable as you could really drill down into what you wanted each lesson to be for that child.
When we began, all the children started on the diagnostic programme, then when it became available after Christmas, we switched our Year 6s to the SATs programme.
As I’m sure any Year 6 teachers will know, by the time you’re back after Christmas heading towards February, you’re needing to drill down and focus on plugging those gaps. As long as whoever is administering your tutoring is able to have the conversations with the teachers asking what they’re covering this week, which children have found that difficult, you can ensure that’s what they’re going to cover and that your curriculum is matched by the tutoring in the buildup to SATs. It’s really, really useful.
We have used the reporting features to keep parents updated on progress.
The reporting is really useful to have on hand for when queries come from parents about how their children are getting on. We often print off the reports and give them to parents to keep them in the loop about how sessions are going.
The sessions have been running so smoothly and the children genuinely enjoy themselves.
The children really enjoy the online approach, they engage well with it — they’re always saying at the end of the session ‘I got this many points’ and comparing with friends so they’ve bought into that rewards element of it.
The representations on the screen are lively and similar to things we use in classrooms anyway so the children are familiar with them. I haven’t ever had a single child say to me after a session ‘that was really boring’ or ‘I didn’t enjoy it’ — in fact, it runs so smoothly that once they’re logged in I can let a class of 15 pupils get on with the tutoring while I get on with other tasks I need to complete!
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