What the inspectors saw - Good practice spotted by Ofsted

22nd February 2013 at 00:00
Engaging girls in maths: Westdene Primary School

In brief

Westdene Primary School uses assessment, focused single-sex teaching and enterprise projects to enthuse girls about maths.

The project

Boys were strongly outperforming girls at the higher level in maths and the school had identified a dip in girls' confidence, and the development of their maths skills, in Years 4 and 5. The challenge was to harness and sustain girls' enthusiasm for maths while still catering for the boys and their different learning styles.

Working with other local schools, Westdene carried out pupil surveys and interviews, which showed that girls were equally aspirational in their life goals but did not always appreciate that maths was central to achieving their ambitions. Also, girls generally enjoyed collaborative learning, whereas boys usually preferred a more competitive approach.

In the light of these findings, the school introduced single-sex maths sets for Year 6 girls with the potential to reach the higher maths levels but lacking confidence in mixed-gender lessons.

Teachers found that girls were more willing to discuss their style of mathematical thinking in a single-sex environment and created tasks to encourage them to develop group-work skills, understand concepts through discussion and be creative with maths.

Girls' maths clubs - where challenges relate to practical, real-life problems - have been set up at lunchtime and in lesson time for pupils in Years 4, 5 and 6. One task, for example, was to plan, budget for and deliver a tea party.

The girls' work is assessed and gaps in learning are highlighted. Pupils' thoughts about their confidence and competence are shared and their feedback is used to inform future lessons.

Careers fairs and talks are held to expose pupils to jobs where maths is important, and pupils are put into teams such as "legal and political", "hospitality and tourism" and "banking and finance" to research careers that interest them. Pupils have the chance to do "taster work" at local firms.

The school has formed a business partnership with the banking sector and has set up a "school bank", which helps pupils to become financially savvy. It has also set up enterprise challenges, in which pupils create a company and undertake a simulated "business challenge", which requires maths and other problem-solving skills.

"We are passionate about preparing our pupils to be successful adults in an ever-changing, technologically advanced society," says head Debbie Crossingham. Her deputy, Jenny Stratton, adds: "We want all pupils to see the value of mathematics and its relevance to the real world."

Signs of success

The school has closed the gender attainment gap in maths and has helped pupils to achieve higher standards. In 2011, 63 per cent of girls and 64 per cent of boys achieved level 5 in maths.

What the inspectors said

"The approach results in improved attitudes, raised attainment and a well-developed understanding of mathematics in the real world. Its success resides in ... learners with the skills and subject knowledge to respond to changing demands and opportunities throughout their lives."

Read the full Ofsted case study report at bit.lyQBTs6h

THE SCHOOL

Name: Westdene Primary School

Location: Brighton

Type: Mixed primary with a nursery

Age: range 3-11

Number of pupils: 510

Intake: The majority of pupils are from white British backgrounds.

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