I recently gave some input at a primary Maths training event in my local area. As more and more schools need to move students on to level 6 at the end of primary to hit their league table targets, there is a training need to enable our teachers to be able to teach the content effectively.
I think primary teachers are great – I’m pretty sure I could not deal with planning for subjects that are not my specialism. I love Maths – I get a buzz from planning for Maths lessons – I have taught Maths at P-Level and A-Level – I can plan engaging lessons with background and context and extension and support really well in Maths. I’m confident with the vocabulary, the progression, the pitch and can address misconceptions well. All that being said, ask me to teach history and I’d flounder. Last year, I had to teach some science – it wasn’t difficult stuff – but I really struggled to know enough to make the lessons meaningful and useful.
Primary practitioners are expected to do this for every area of the curriculum every day! No way I could do that! Now, with the expectation that Level 6 is achieved by some students, there is a danger of slipping into old ways of working – teaching verbatim from a textbook, not knowing where this goes, not fully understanding where a concept has come from. I have observed some amazing Maths lessons in primary – using concrete resources and visualisations, pair talk and problem solving – all of which were used excellently to help their learners learn and make progress. But, if the content is something unfamiliar, if you’re worried about being ‘good’ at Maths or that your students might be ‘better’ than you, if you are being pressured to get the magical level 6 – then it would be easy to forget about all the excellent practice you do and slip into something from a box.
In my input, I wanted to encourage primary teachers to keep doing what they are doing. I’ve embedded the Prezi I used below. Saying all that, there is a training need that is there. How can these teachers plan effectively if they haven’t made these connections themselves in a number of years, if ever? With the demise of the National Strategies, I think it is the responsibility of local schools to help each other. Effective secondary Maths departments that have the capacity to do so, should be helping to develop and equip our primary colleagues to know the content well, to make the connections more easily so that when our students arrive with level 6, we believe it. Surely, a secure Level 6 rather than one coached for a test is a benefit to the secondary school who receives that student and is then judged upon their progress?
What do you think? Is this the responsibility of local cluster groups to source funding and time to deal with? If not them, then who?
Answers on a postcard please.