What the inspectors saw - Good practice spotted by Ofsted

5th April 2013 at 01:00

Sustaining excellence in maths: Coxhoe Primary School.

In brief

When Stephen Jones became headteacher at Coxhoe Primary School in Durham four years ago, results for maths were already good. But he aimed to raise standards even further and increase students' understanding and enjoyment of the subject. The approach would be based on inclusivity, flexibility and consistency.

The project

Rigorous assessment identifies students who need additional support with any aspect of maths and extra help is provided to enable all students to make progress, not just lower-attaining children or those at key thresholds in their year. As one Year 5 child says: "Everyone needs a little help with their maths sometimes."

This inclusive approach extends to staff, who meet regularly to review progress and improve provision. Teachers' weekly plans are submitted to a shared area on the school's computer network where they can be scrutinised and linked to students' subsequent work. This allows senior staff to gauge the effectiveness of planning - and provides a rich bank of material, activities and resources for staff.

Few structures are set in stone, however. For example, the school used to move students in key stage 2 who were good at maths to the year group above. But after regular reappraisals of this strategy, students are now grouped by levels of attainment rather than in broader mixed-year classes.

Reception class teachers recognised that some children were not ready for Year 1's more formal ways of working, and so created three teaching spaces that could accommodate children from Reception and Year 1 who are at different stages in their development.

All staff receive feedback about their teaching and discuss trends or patterns that inform school practice and ensure greater consistency.

This approach has helped staff to identify weaknesses in students' written and mental calculation. Although existing methods were based around the National Strategies, many students were confused by the different methods they were being taught. Staff worked together to develop a standard approach that boosted children's confidence and improved their ability to solve problems.

The latest assessments have identified concerns over the teaching of data handling, for example. Jones says: "Pupils were able to collect data and draw graphs and charts, but I couldn't see the progression in understanding and applying these skills."

Staff have now developed guidelines for teaching data handling and a similar project is under way to improve the teaching of shapes, space and measures.

Signs of success

Coxhoe Primary School is highly successful in encouraging students' enjoyment and securing their achievement in maths. A high proportion of students not only meet but exceed national expectations each year and they are well prepared for the next stage in their maths education.

What the inspectors said

An important element in the school's success is its willingness to adapt and change. Regular monitoring ensures consistency across the school. A common planning template means there is a sharp focus on planning for "key questions" to probe students' understanding. This approach underpins provision that is typically good and outstanding. A group of students from Years 5 and 6 said they gave maths "10 out of 10"!

Read the full Ofsted case study report at bit.lyWFu55S

THE SCHOOL

Name: Coxhoe Primary School

Location: Coxhoe, near Durham

Type: Mixed primary

Age range: 4-11

Number of students: 212

Intake: Mostly white British.

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