Three years ago Gareth Kemble, Numeracy Officer for Flintshire Local Education Authority was looking for a way to address the numeracy needs of primary age underachievers in the region. Programmes were already in place to support children with special needs in Literacy but Gareth wanted to find a method of boosting the skills of the children who none the less required some additional support in maths, both at the lower and top end of the scale.
Gareth met with Jim Martland, director of the Math Recovery Programme in the UK and Ireland, which had been researched in Australia and Canada before being picked up by a handful of English Local Authorities. The programme sounded like it suited the needs of Flintshire so a pilot scheme working with eight Flintshire primary schools was born. In other authorities, the intervention had been used initially just at Reception, Years 1 and 2 but Gareth extended the programme to cover all primary ages up to Year 7.
The Maths Recovery Programme works by training teachers on a five day course, accredited by Liverpool University. The teachers are trained in an assessment technique which assesses, not the child's work or skills levels, but the actual strategies the child uses in their maths. The main emphasis of the assessment is that is it videoed so the strategies adopted can be observed. Part of the course is also to plan an effective teaching programme which lasts between eight weeks and a whole term. The assessment places the child on a scale from zero to five, with zero being a child who does not have one to one correspondence, and five being a child with a variety of complex strategies to work out the answers.
For the children at the lower end of the bracket, the understanding the teacher gains from the assessment allows the teacher to put together an individual support programme, targeting their particular areas of need. So far, this technique has proven very effective with 76% of children moving up by one or two stages as a result, and an additional 5% moving up three stages.
Lisa Howden, Numeracy Teacher Adviser in Flintshire, explains that
"During the initial pilot phase, we did have to pay out for the training as we didn't have the expertise ourselves within the Authority. Now, however, I am fully trained up as an Accredited Trainer. The schools don't pay anything towards the training. The only resources required are the paper materials we work from – a folder and assessment cards etc, which are inexpensive."
For schools who do not own a video camera, this can also be borrowed from the Authority at no cost. Lisa continues,
"For schools who are concerned about finding five days for training or paying for supply teachers, we are very flexible. Many whole schools choose to train on INSET days or break up the training into two full days and then three 'twilights', as we call them, with a month in between to practise the administering of the assessments and using the filming equipment."
188 teachers are now trained to use the programme in Flintshire and 40 out of 75 primaries in the region have at least one trained teacher. We also have 7 teachers who have gained the accreditation status. Headteachers, teachers and teaching assistants can be trained in the programme and at present - 11 of the 45 primaries have trained their whole school. Early this term, another 45 teachers (3 whole schools) will be trained in the programme.
The Local Authority is piloting the use of a Teaching DVD for children at Stage one, which the children can view at home with their parents to consolidate what they are learning in the programme. The DVD also has its uses in school as children can be supported with the use of Teaching Assistants in small groups.
For details of the Maths Recovery programme in Flintshire contact Lisa Howden, Numeracy Teacher Adviser, on 01352 704174 or at firstname.lastname@example.org
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