Level 6 Maths in Year 6 – what’s going on?

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.


3 thoughts on “Level 6 Maths in Year 6 – what’s going on?

  1. I think you’re right about this. I’ve known Year 6 teachers who have struggled with Level 5 content, let alone Level 6. Ideally, I think there would be a maths specialist in every primary school to support with things like this, but failing this, sharing a specialist between clusters of schools or getting support from the local secondary maths department might be the way forward. The introduction of the new curriculum ought really to give a golden opportunity for providing good quality CPD on mathematical progression, subject knowledge and pedagogy but there seems to be little recognition of this by government. With much less LA support generally available now too, schools are left to work a lot of this out on their own and many of them just aren’t equipped to do it.

    • Having a maths specialist in every primary is a great way to go – I think the MAST program and other initiatives are making in-roads in this which is excellent. There is still the issue that delivering level 6 content is not something done regularly by primary specialists which may make it harder to keep on top off.

      I agree about your point that this should be a golden opportunity and yet I’m not sure how I’d feel about a centrally pushed CPD program in Maths from central government. I shudder to think what that might look like!

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