Teaching Approaches to Promote Consistent ... - Learning Wales


Teaching Approaches to Promote Consistent ... - Learning Wales

RESEARCHTeaching Approaches to PromoteConsistent Level 4 Performance in KeyStage 2 English and MathematicsSue Beverton, Tony Harries,Frances Gallannaugh and David GallowayUniversity of DurhamResearch Report RR699

Research ReportNo 699Teaching Approaches to PromoteConsistent Level 4 Performance in KeyStage 2 English and MathematicsSue Beverton, Tony Harries,Frances Gallannaugh and David GallowayUniversity of DurhamThe views expressed in this report are the authors’ and do not necessarily reflect those of the Departmentfor Education and Skills.© University of Durham 2005ISBN 1 84478 608 01

ContentsPageExecutive Summary 4Chapter 1 Background1.0 Introduction and rationale 91.1 Aims and research questions 101.2 Defining ‘teaching approaches’ 101.3 Summary 11Chapter 2 Literature review2.0 Introduction 122.1 The curriculum 122.2 Whole school policies 152.3 Effective practice in achieving consistency in Level 4 between Englishand mathematics 222.4 Effective practice in achieving consistency in Level 4 between boys and girls 252.5 Outcomes 26Chapter 3 Methodology3.0 Introduction 293.1 Overall research design 293.2 Sample 303.3 Design and construction of pro-formas for data collection 353.4 Procedures for data collection 353.5 Procedures for data analysis 36Chapter 4 Perceptions on preferences and challenges in the English andmathematics curricula4.0 Introduction 374.1 Pupils’ perceptions 374.2 Head teachers’ perceptions 414.3 Subject co-ordinators’ perceptions 434.4 Teachers’ perceptions 474.5 Summary 492

Chapter 5 School policy and classroom teaching approaches5.0 Introduction 505.1 Awareness of patterns of achievement 515.2 Schools’ strategies adopted to help pupils achieve level 4 in Englishand mathematics 555.3 Summary 66Chapter 6 Classroom teaching approaches6.0 Introduction 676.1 Teaching approaches in Year 6 and Years 3 -5 676.2 Transferring teaching approaches 696.3 Teachers’ strategies in addressing barriers to pupils achieving level 4 746.4 Strategies teachers use to promote consistency in achievement of boys and girls 806.5 Summary 85Chapter 7 Conclusions and implications7.0 Introduction 867.1 The issue of consistency at school level 867.2 The nature of the curriculum 887.3 The impact of school policies 897.4 The effect of specific teaching strategies 927.5 Summary 93References 95TablesTable 2.1 Comparative Key Stage 2 Results for English and Mathematics 26Table 3.1 Information on Schools Involved as Case Studies 31Table 7.1 Cumulative Discrepancy Scores over Three Years 87AppendicesAppendix 1 Research Questions 101Appendix 2 Sampling: Long list of schools 104Appendix 3 Proformas used for Data Collection 1083

Executive SummaryIntroductionThis research explored how successful schools teach English and mathematics. Itpursued the idea that in schools where there is a history of strong performance innational tests at the end of Key Stage 2 (KS2) either in both English and mathematics,or in one of these two subjects and, teaching approaches may go some way towardsexplaining their results. The study was conducted through a series of case studies ofsuccessful schools.The term ‘teaching approach’ refers in this research to a school’s management,planning, resourcing and teaching of a curricular subject. The teaching approach willguide the type of support and direction the teacher receives from subject co-ordinatorsand the emphasis given to a subject in school policies. Homework policies, the use ofvisual displays, involvement of parents and roles of teaching assistants are included inthis broad definition of an ‘approach’.An important feature of the current context for all schools in England is the PrimaryNational Strategy (PNS). The PNS incorporates the National Literacy and NumeracyStrategies (NLS/NNS) and is the major vehicle for carrying forward the policies,established through the NLS/NNS frameworks, of raising primary pupils’performance in the core curriculum subjects of English and mathematics. Part of thecurrent research was aimed at understanding some of the ways the application of thePNS influenced organisation and practice in schools.Key findings• Although there is a clear pattern across the country of pupils achievingdifferentially in English and mathematics, such discrepancies in subjectattainment do not indicate widespread systematic differences at school level.• Teachers in the schools visited were aware of areas in each subject that they,and pupils, found difficult. They identified the broad areas of writing inEnglish and problem solving in mathematics as particular concerns.• In general, the schools based their English and mathematics curricula on theNLS/NNS frameworks, which were thought to have had a positive impact onattainment. Although most schools followed the NLS and NNS frameworks,there was a tendency to stick more closely to the latter.• The schools adopted a range of common organisational strategies to supportachievement in English and mathematics. These include school-wideassessment and target setting systems, grouping by attainment, small groupintervention programmes and employing additional support staff.• Subject co-ordinators tended to provide support to class teachers rather thanhaving an explicit leadership role.• Teachers used a range of strategies to create a positive learning environmentand support achievement. Having a range of ideas to hand seemed to be moreimportant than expertise in single methods.4

• No consistent pattern emerged in relation to differences in the teachingapproaches used in Year 3 – Year 5. Different strategies were used in Year 6,however, where teaching tended to be more formal in style and “dominated byintensive periods of preparation for the national tests”.• In general, there was relatively little recognition from teachers of gender as anissue in mathematics and English teaching. Where there was concern aboutgender it tended to be in relation to boys and about attainment in literacy.Gender was seldom identified as an issue in relation to boys’ or girls’attainment in mathematics.AimsWithin the overall aim of understanding more about the ways successful schools teachEnglish and mathematics, the research aimed to investigate patterns of pupilachievement. While raising the level of achievement in each subject remains apriority, there is also concern about the need to increase the proportion of pupils whoachieve level 4 at the end of key stage 2 in both subjects. Also important is the genderdistribution of pupils who failed to achieve level 4 in both subjects: girls are morelikely to achieve level 4 in English but not in mathematics, and boys are more likelyto achieve this standard in mathematics but not in English. The research therefore hadthe following aims:1. to identify effective teaching practices which work well in helping pupils toachieve level 4 in both subjects;2. to identify the main areas of weakness in English and mathematics pupiloutcomes in Key Stage 2; and3. to identify the main areas of weakness in English and mathematics by genderof pupils.MethodologyNine schools were selected from Local Education Authorities (LEAs) in the North ofEngland for case study visits. In order to examine teaching approaches in a variety ofcontexts of pupil achievement, each of the schools was chosen to fall into one of threegroups:• schools with substantially more pupils (on average over three years) achievinglevel 4 in mathematics over the last three years;• schools with substantially more pupils (on average over three years) achievinglevel 4 in English over the last three years; and• schools with reasonably consistent level 4 results (on average over three years)across the two subjects.In the first two groups, attainment in the subject in which the school was mostsuccessful was at least at the national average level. In the third group, attainment inboth subjects was at least at this level.All schools participating in this study were visited for four days. In each school:• a literacy and a numeracy lesson was observed in each of Year 3 – Year 6;5

• interviews were carried out with the head teacher, literacy and numeracy coordinatorsand a class teacher from each of Year 3 – Year 6;• focus group meetings were carried out with mixed groups of six pupils fromeach year group;• illustrative samples of completed and marked work in literacy and numeracywere collected; and• medium term planning for each subject was collected.Detailed Findings• Although there is a clear pattern across the country of pupils achievingdifferentially in English and mathematics, evidence was found to suggest thatsuch discrepancies in subject attainment do not indicate widespreadsystematic differences at school level. Where differences do exist at schoollevel, they are unlikely to persist over time.• Teachers were aware of areas in each subject that they, and pupils, founddifficult. Most commonly, they identified the broad areas of writing, inEnglish, and problem solving, in mathematics, as particular concerns.Although this was the general pattern across the sample, teachers found a widerange of areas in English and mathematics challenging and differences existedamong teachers, even within schools. Subject co-ordinators were also able togive detailed information about challenges in the curriculum. Areas ofdifficulty were not generally related to teachers’ subject knowledge; mostteachers felt confident in their own ability to apply their subject knowledge inthe classroom and there was general acknowledgement of the importance ofin-service training provided by schools and LEAs.• In general, curricula in English and mathematics lessons were based on theNLS/NNS frameworks, which were thought to have had a positive impact onattainment. Although most schools followed the NLS and NNS frameworks,there was a tendency to stick more closely to the latter. Whilst in three schoolsit was said that the NNS framework was applied flexibly, this was explainedas using the Unit Plans 1 selectively rather than entailing significant alterationsto the structure or content of the daily mathematics lesson. The NNSframework was seen as more logical than the NLS framework, withappropriate sequencing of skills and tasks. However, the pace of the dailymathematics lesson was seen as a problem in two schools, with insufficienttime to consolidate what had been learnt. In contrast, there was some feelingthat the literacy hour provided insufficient time to address all the NLSobjectives. At least two schools had moved guided reading out of the literacyhour to make more time for other literacy activities. In particular, lack of timefor sustained writing was seen as an issue.• Schools adopted a range of common organisational strategies to supportachievement in English and mathematics. These included monitoringstandards, school wide assessment and target setting systems, grouping by1Unit plans are sets of lesson plans available on the Standards site (www.standards.dfes.gov.uk).They provide detailed notes on how to develop a set of lessons on a particular topic in the NNS andNLS.6

attainment, small group intervention programmes and employing additionalsupport staff. Whilst all these strategies were generally in evidence, the detailof the systems used was different in each school. Although sharing somecommon goals and challenges, clearly schools also faced some diverse issuesand often required approaches which took into account local circumstances.Head teachers in particular were able to articulate the issues faced by theirschools and were therefore in a position to guide the development of possiblestrategies for addressing them.• Subject co-ordinators tended to provide support to class teachers, rather thanhaving an explicit leadership role. With few exceptions, class teachers valuedsupport from subject co-ordinators, which included providing informal advice,directing staff towards training, maintaining and developing resources, andsometimes for providing feedback on performance data. However, in only oneschool were the literacy and numeracy co-ordinators viewed unambiguously asproviding leadership in the development of classroom practice and as centralto raising standards.• Teachers used a range of strategies to create a positive learning environmentand support achievement. Having a range of ideas to hand seemed to be moreimportant than expertise in single methods. Teaching in English andmathematics tended to have a strong subject focus which, whilst notpreventing cross-curricular work, meant that opportunities for this had to bedeliberately identified and planned. There was some evidence in the data thatwhere cross-curricular work was taking place, more occurred in English thanin mathematics. One school was moving towards a curriculum in whichEnglish was taught as part of cross curricular modules.• No consistent pattern emerged in relation to differences in the teachingapproaches used in Year 3 – Year 5. Different strategies were used in Year 6,however, when teaching tended to be more formal in style and focused on therequirements of the national testing system. All schools were conscious of theresponsibility that they had towards pupils in order to ensure that they reachedthe highest possible level in the national tests. The amount of preparation forthe tests varied, but it was clear that the perceived need to prepare for themoccupied much of the classroom practice at least in a large part of Y6. Therewas some recognition of the need to maintain a non-threatening environmentwhich encouraged each pupil to do their best. Despite this, however, pupilsthemselves were greatly aware of the high stakes nature of assessment.• In general, there was relatively little recognition of gender as an issue inteaching English and mathematics. Where there was concern about gender ittended to be in relation to boys and their attainment in literacy. Gender wasseldom identified as an issue in relation to attainment in mathematics.Differences between boys and girls achieving level 4 at national level obscurethe fact that at school level differences may be very small indeed. A largemajority of teachers reported that there was no distinction between boys’ andgirls’ responses to the curriculum. In some schools, efforts were made to seekout “boy friendly” texts and curriculum examples. However, in many casesteachers believed that providing a high quality of resources that would appealto all children was more important than choosing resources with boys (or girls)in mind.7

ImplicationsThere are three keys areas that the study highlighted:• The role of the co-ordinator: The research suggests that the role of the subjectco-ordinators needs developing. In particular it would be helpful if they wereguided to develop the skills required to help other teachers identify specificsubject difficulties which pupils experience. Linked with this it would seemuseful if co-ordinators were able to analyse KS1 results in such a way that theywere able to suggest specific learning challenges which particular pupils maybe experiencing. In this way all evidence would be used formatively in orderto attempt to identify challenges to pupils’ learning which can then beaddressed.• The nature of intervention: The impression given from the data seems to bethat intervention takes place in the form of booster classes in the period priorto national assessments. It would seem that better use could be made of theseintervention opportunities after an assessment has been analysed. For exampleif the school co-ordinator has identified specific needs for pupils as a result ofKey Stage 1 tests then the intervention needs to be in Year 3 and not left untilYear 5 or 6. This is what might be termed “best moment” intervention. Furtherthis intervention needs to be seen as an integral part of the pupil’s programme.Otherwise there is a danger that the pupil will be further disadvantaged bymissing new work while the intervention takes place.• The role of the classroom assistant: There are now a variety of roles thatclassroom assistants can play. The current study would suggest that there is aneed for rationalising these potential roles in order to make best use ofintervention opportunities for pupils who experience a wide range ofchallenges as they seek to improve their standards in mathematics and English.Understandably schools appear to try to ensure all staff gain a “fair share” ofclassroom assistant time, however it may be necessary to consider classroomassistant time more generally in terms of the pupil needs.The final chapter of the Main Report contains a set of practical suggestions aimed ataddressing these issues.The whole issue of raising standards is a complex area and there can be no easyanswers to the question about how this can best be achieved. One of the importantfeatures of the schools which were visited was the way in which they worked hard toidentify as clearly as possible the challenges faced by their particular institution andthen used whatever resources were available to address that challenge in a way thatthey felt best suited the context within which they worked.8

Chapter 1 Background1.0 Introduction and rationaleThe central interest for this research was to explore how successful schools teachEnglish and mathematics. It pursued the idea that in schools where there is a historyof strong performance in national tests at the end of Key Stage 2 (KS2) either in bothEnglish and mathematics, or one of these two subjects and not the other, teachingapproaches may go some way towards explaining their results.An important feature of the current context for all schools in England is the PrimaryNational Strategy (PNS). The PNS has combined and superseded the NationalLiteracy and Numeracy Strategies (NLS/NNS) and is the major vehicle for carryingforward the policies established through the NLS/NNS frameworks of raising primarypupils’ performance in the core curriculum subjects of English and mathematics, asmeasured by national tests.Furthermore, this research is interested in patterns of pupil achievement. In terms ofnational targets towards which the PNS is trying to help pupils in England attain, thecurrent goals are for 85% of 11 year olds to achieve level 4 in both subjects by 2008.However, there is still some scope for improvement since in 2004, 78% of pupilsnationally achieved this level in English and 74% in mathematics (DfES, 2004). Inaddition, while raising the level of achievement in each subject remains a priority,there is also concern about the need to increase the proportion of pupils who achievelevel 4 at the end of Key Stage 2 in both subjects. Also important is the genderdistribution of pupils who failed to achieve level 4 in both subjects: girls are morelikely to achieve level 4 in English but not in mathematics, and boys are more likelyto achieve this standard in mathematics but not in English. This disparity is moresignificant in English than in the mathematics results. Yet on closer examination oflevel 5 scores then boys seem to outperform girls.To summarise, perhaps the most cogent reason for this research is that if the factorsleading to some pupils achieving level 4 in one subject but only level 3 in the othercould be identified, then more specific support could be provided and more children9

could be enabled to reach their potential. In turn, having more children reach level 4at the age of 11 would also contribute towards them succeeding at Key Stages 3 and 4,and towards meeting the national targets at these levels.1.1 Aims and research questionsThe main aims of the research as specified by the research brief are:1. to identify effective teaching practices which work well in helpingpupils to achieve level 4 in both subjects;2. to identify the main areas of weakness in English and mathematicspupil outcomes in Key Stage 2; and3. to identify the main areas of weakness in English and mathematics bygender of pupils.These three aims were expanded into specific research questions. These are given inAppendix 1.1.2 Defining ‘teaching approaches’The term ‘teaching approach’ as used in this research refers to how a curricularsubject is managed, planned, resourced and taught within the school context and isseen as a continuous system. For example, in one school, there might be a tightlyintegratedapproach to the teaching of English, say, with a close connection sustainedbetween classroom teaching and subject co-ordination, with planning and resourcingundertaken through collaboration and effective leadership: in such a context, onewould expect a clear and unified school-based teaching approach towards English.Also, while classroom teachers do, of course, retain responsibility for HOW theyteach, the term ‘teaching approach’ carries a certain breadth. So, for example, visualdisplays on classroom walls and around school corridors may help to portraysomething of a school’s approach to teaching a subject. Homework policies, theinvolvement of parents, the use of teaching assistants, can all have some relevancehere. The school’s teaching approach(es) in a subject will inform how a teachermakes selections of methods and resources for teaching given objectives to theirparticular class; it will guide the type of support and direction the teacher receivesfrom subject co-ordinators and the emphasis given to a subject in the school’s policiesand development planning.10

From this it can be seen that teaching approaches to a subject are not the same asteaching methods within the classroom. A teaching method is a clear and focussedclassroom procedure with an underpinning rationale but the term ‘teachingapproaches’ embraces a wider and richer repertoire of issues than ‘teaching methods’by reaching beyond the classroom into the wider school context. So ‘phonics’ is ateaching method but schools and teachers may construct a variety of approaches whenusing it to teach initial reading [e.g. different resources, carpet time or not, groupchildren in certain ways, use teaching assistants (TAs)].Nor are teaching approaches the same as teaching styles. Teaching styles are morefluid and related to a teacher’s personal values and attitudes. A teacher may prefercertain styles over others, such as preferring to maintain a formal rather than informalstyle. In fact, most teachers do not seem to adopt a single style consistently, but varytheir styles depending on a range of factors including what they are teaching andwhen. This means that circumstances attendant upon the actual teaching occasion,such as the pupils’ apparent level of excitement, whether the lesson is at the beginningor end of a course, how the teacher is feeling physically may all influence a teacher’schoice of teaching style (e.g. Bennett, 1976).1.3 SummaryThe possibility of some linkage between a school’s teaching approach in Englishand/or mathematics and the school’s performance in meeting national target(s) hasbeen mooted. This research is exploratory in addressing that possible linkage. Thedistinctive features of the term ‘teaching approach’ have been described asencompassing classroom teaching actions that are clearly informed and supported bysubject management, planning and resourcing. Therefore this research willinvestigate subject co-ordinators’, head teachers’ and teachers’ views and practices aswell as the views of pupils towards the subjects of English and mathematics.11

Chapter 2 Literature review2.0 IntroductionThe current context of national and local targets provides an important backdrop forthis research. In mathematics, schools in England have substantially improved theirperformance both in absolute terms and in relation to other countries from 1995-2003(Ruddock et al., 2003). Nevertheless, primary mathematics results (at age ten) are“high by statistical standards but not the highest level seen in developed countries”(Ruddock et al., 2003:3). The data from the Third International Mathematics andScience Survey (TIMSS) (Mullis, 1998) showed that the scores of English children ofabout 10 years old are significantly above the international average across all areas ofthe mathematics curriculum, with little difference between boys’ and girls’ scores.The Progress in International Reading Literacy Study (PIRLS) (National Center forEducation Statistics, 2001) provided similar data for reading and indicated that whilstaverage reading scores are very high in England, the variation in scores is much widerthan in other comparable countries. However, international comparisons are by naturefairly rudimentary and should be treated with some caution.The drive to improve standards is also intended to have an impact on school policyand classroom practice. Yet precisely how government policy influences schoolpolicy, and how school policy influences teaching at classroom level, are relativelyunder-researched areas of education policy implementation. Also not known is howeffective different school policies or Local Education Authority (LEA) trainingcourses are in promoting level 4 in one subject compared with another.2.1 The curriculum.2.1.1 Subject knowledge.The introduction of the National Curriculum (NC) in the Education Reform Act 1988led to recognition that many teachers did not have the subject knowledge they neededto teach all parts of the KS2 curriculum (Bennett and Carr, 1993). Wragg et al.(1998) found that highly effective teachers of literacy, as nominated by head teachersand LEA advisors, possessed certain characteristics that distinguished them clearlyfrom less effective teachers of literacy. In terms of subject knowledge, foremost12

among these characteristics was a clear, conceptual understanding of what literacymeant (for them) in terms of its role, function, values and purpose. From this basis,highly effective literacy teachers had developed a strong knowledge base for theirteaching. In other words, they had a strong pedagogic knowledge to match theirstrong subject knowledge. Similarly, Wray et al. (1997) report the importance ofstrong subject knowledge as a sound underpinning to effective practice in teachingliteracy. However, neither the Wragg nor Wray studies used pupil outcome data as acriterion of teacher effectiveness.2.1.2 Pedagogical subject knowledgeThe NNS and NLS frameworks each provides a clear model of pedagogy and arecommended structure within which to apply it. There are, however, two practicalproblems that existing research has highlighted: firstly, that visiting schools andobserving lessons demonstrate that the pedagogy envisaged in each Strategy is in factnot being used consistently; secondly, that teachers do not always have the subjectpedagogy expertise to apply one or both frameworks (i.e. these visits may find noadherence to NLS/NNS frameworks). To illustrate, research demonstrated that, ininterviews, teachers claimed more interaction took place in their lessons thansubsequent observations of their lessons revealed (e.g. Hardman et al., 2003; Pinel,2002). The reality was that most questions actually asked by the teachers during classteaching were found to funnel pupils’ answers to the correct one, rather than tostimulate discussion and understanding (as they had stated) in interviews. Thiscontrast was more marked in mathematics than in English lessons. A further problemis that teachers’ intended pedagogy may be misinformed by pupils participating inways that actually disguise a lack of quality in their thinking. Denvir and Askew(2001) noted a risk of teachers inferring that their pupils had understood from theappearance of participatory behaviours by pupils.Brown et al. (2003) investigated the relationship between teaching approaches andKey Stage 1 (KS1) pupils’ gains in learning mathematics. They used lessonobservations to evaluate how teachers approached the task of teaching (e.g. the levelof mathematical challenge), teachers’ talk (e.g. how far it focussed on mathematicalmeanings), the tools they used (e.g. range of modes – resources, manipulatives,representations) and the relationships and norms in their classrooms. These features13

can all be seen as falling within the ambit of teaching approaches as defined in thisresearch. The researchers pointed out that the correlation between the overall scoreon use of these features and pupils’ gains in learning was low (r=0.18). Theyconcluded that improvement was likely to be linked to the emphasis on outcomes asevidenced through national tests, not the 3-part lesson with interactive whole classteaching required by the NNS.Turning to the KS2 English curriculum, national test results have shown that thestandard of children’s written work is lower than that of reading (Andrews et al.,2004a:5). This questions whether teachers have the necessary pedagogical subjectknowledge for teaching writing effectively. The reliance on teaching grammar as ameans of improving writing is an interesting example of a pedagogic practice that hasattracted much recent comment and media interest. In a systematic review of theeffect of grammar teaching on 5-16 year olds’ accuracy and quality in writtencomposition, Andrews et a,l (2004a:5) concluded:“We now know that there is no high quality evidence that teaching of traditionalgrammar or syntax ….. is effective with regard to writing development.”The authors suggested that it would be useful to investigate what is effective. Ofcourse, it must also be noted that the reviewers found little evidence either way, i.e.evidence to support the argument that teaching traditional grammar is ineffective waslacking. Also, those reviewers took ‘traditional grammar teaching’ 2 to includedecontextualised grammar teaching. The latter approach entails context- or needsdrivengrammar teaching when pupils encounter grammatical points in their writing,which the NLS Framework for Teaching Literacy supports. However, a subsequentreview of non-traditional grammar teaching by the same reviewers concluded thatteaching of sentence combining was an effective way to improve accuracy and qualityof written composition (Andrews et al., 2004b), but that the strength of the evidencebase, although better than the first review, was still not highly compelling.Norwich’s (2003) review of pedagogies, specific to different groups of children withSEN, found no evidence of pedagogies of particular benefit for pupils with specific2 The phrase ‘traditional grammar teaching’ has many possible meanings: ‘traditional’ may apply to‘grammar’, in which case the grammar of English is defined in formal terms based on sentencestructures and word classes; or it might apply to ‘teaching’, in which case it is the pedagogy ofgrammar teaching that is the issue. The review combines both meanings.14

learning difficulties, or for pupils with mild or moderate learning difficulties. Rather,he found that these pupils responded best to the same teaching approaches that wereeffective with other (i.e. mainstream) children. He did, however, argue that children’sneeds should be seen on a continuum ranging from those who require high intensityteaching strategies to those, usually with higher ability, who do well with lowintensity teaching because they are relatively able to learn independently or incollaboration with other pupils. Seen in this way, the skills and teaching approachesrequired to teach any individual pupil are very much the product of the teacher’sknowledge and understanding of the child’s needs.2.2 Whole School Policies2.2.1 Linking subject specific and whole school policiesHall and Harding (2003) have argued that there is an urgent need for research in theUnited Kingdom (UK) to examine the links between policy effectiveness at a wholeschool level and how this can promote effective literacy within individual classrooms.The present research is concerned with both levels. The effective application of apolicy can reasonably be evaluated by the extent to which teachers understand andaccept it, incorporating it into their daily routines. In this section ten aspects of schoolpolicy are reviewed that may affect level 4 attainment, and their relevance for Englishand mathematics are considered.2.2.2 Generalist class teacherRadical changes in primary teaching took place in the five years following publicationof the Plowden Report (CACE, 1967). These changes included seating pupils attables rather than in rows, mixed ability grouping, teaching through topics, a strongemphasis on creative arts and classroom displays of children’s work. Critiques ofmany post-Plowden practices (Alexander, 1984; Alexander, 1992; Alexander et al.,1992) called these aspects of what became known as “good primary practice” intoquestion, and subsequent reforms have replaced many of them. Yet the generalistclass teacher, covering all or most of the curriculum, has remained a cornerstone ofprimary teaching. This research will explore matters of generalist and specialistsubject teaching as means of promoting consistent level 4 achievement.15

2.2.3 Ability groupingIn spite of many LEAs' support for mixed ability teaching following the PlowdenReport, many teachers continued to group children by ability. Within the NLS/NNSframeworks, group work sessions offer opportunities for children of different abilityto work at tables with their peers within the same classroom. Some schools, though,apply different grouping strategies in Years 5 and 6. Setting pupils into separateability-based classes for each core subject is one such strategy; another is streamingpupils into ability classes that remain fixed across a number of subjects, depending onresources and various school factors. Strong research evidence of benefits for settingas school policy is lacking. Research over a period of some time (e.g. Harlen andMalcolm 1997; Hallam, 2002) has found no evidence that grouping by ability in theprimary years leads to cognitive gains. There is some evidence of social benefits frommixed ability teaching, but this is mainly with older pupils in KS3 (Johnston andMcLune, 2000).McSharry and Ollerton (2002) noted that most schools organised pupils into smallgroups by ability within classes in KS1 for all or part of the time (70%) while 20%used setting across different classes (comparable figures for KS2 are not available).That research found no direct evidence that this influenced pupil achievement,although the improvement of national curriculum tests scores was reported by schoolsas a major reason for adopting in-class ability grouping. Setting into classes by abilitywas found to provide teachers with a more manageable means of whole class teachingand of providing pupils with differentiated work. Furthermore, McSharry andOllerton warned of the possible adverse consequences (loss of confidence anddisaffection as learners) of pupils spending many years in low ability classes.In comparison, some motivation research suggests that young children are less likelyto be adversely affected by ability grouping. Young children appear to view the“smartest” child as the one who tries hardest (Nicholls, 1989). In other words, youngchildren do not distinguish between ability and effort. Gradually this changes, untilby around puberty children are able to distinguish clearly between the two concepts.By this stage, children understand that extra effort will not necessarily enable them toreach the top table in a primary class, or the top band in their secondary school.16

Accordingly, the present research tries to explore developments in pupils’ attitudestowards learning mathematics and English across the whole of KS2.2.2.4 Whole class teaching and classroom interactionWhole class teaching is a significant element both of the literacy hour and numeracylesson, as envisaged by the NLS/NNS frameworks. There is some question, fromexisting mathematics teaching research, over whether whole class teaching doesalways lead to intended outcomes. For example, Earl (2003) points out that in someclassrooms, whole class teaching is interpreted as meaning a lecturing style ofteaching, and that this may be at the expense of teaching interactively. In otherresearch, some difficulties have been noted regarding periods of whole class teachingin the numeracy lesson: children’s concentration can be lost because of over-longmental/oral starters; teachers may abbreviate or omit the whole class plenaries if theymismanage the time in earlier parts of the lesson (Millet et al., 2004). Theseresearchers also noted that teachers placed a heavy emphasis on pupils’ factual recalland there was little evidence of strategic thinking and mental calculation beingencouraged.Problems over implementing teacher-pupil interaction as envisaged by the NNS/NLSframeworks have already been noted (see 2.1.2 above) and also Hardman et al. (2003)and English et al. (2003). In addition, Millet et al. (2004) found few instances ofteachers responding to and building on pupils’ answers and questions.Lively classroom interaction between pupils, not just between teacher and pupils,creates opportunities for cognitive challenge and growth (Shayer and Adey, 1992). Itis not known whether classroom interaction between pupils is necessary to achievelevel 4, nor whether it is necessary in moving KS2 pupils to a higher level.2.2.5 Assessment and targetsClearly, national testing in Year 6 is a form of high stakes assessment, both forschools and pupils. There is evidence that non-judgemental feedback followingsummative assessment by primary school teachers (for example, in practice forNational Curriculum tests) can increase pupil effort when linked to information abouthow to improve (Brookhart and DeVoge, 1999). Brookhart and DeVoge (1999) also17

found that students’ orientation to learning is influenced by the manner in which theirteachers present assessment tasks such that if sensitively handled, without overtpressure, practising for summative assessments need not result in negativeconnotations for pupils. Evidence has been noted that in practising summativeassessment of older pupils (preparing for the General Certificate of SecondaryEducation (GCSE) teachers are so concerned about following the assessmentrequirements strictly that their concern for individual students is reduced, i.e. teachersmay tend to focus on the details of assessment itself rather than using it to find outwhat pupils don’t understand (Bullock et al., 2002; Yung et al., 2002). It is not clearwhether the high stakes national testing programme in Year 6 may have similareffects on teachers.Harlen and Crick (2002) systematically reviewed evidence on the impact ofsummative assessment tests on students’ motivation for learning. The review foundthat high stakes assessment tends to encourage a teaching style favouring transmissionof knowledge with a predominance of highly structured classroom activities. Suchapproaches can favour pupils who prefer to learn in this way. However, they can alsodisadvantage and lower the self esteem of those who prefer more active and creativeways of learning (McClune, 2000). Repeated practice tests can lower the self imageof low achieving students in Years 2 and 6 (Davies and Brember, 1998). This findingwas considered to be due to pupils becoming de-motivated by persistent evidence oftheir poor achievements in relation to their peers.Harlen and Crick’s review (2002) found little clear evidence that such assessment andtesting policies had a part in maximising the number of pupils reaching the level 4benchmark. The evidence for this is not recent and comes from the United States(US). The limited available evidence suggests that the manner in which teacherspresent assessments to pupils on the level 3 / 4 borderline may be crucial, with asustained high stakes emphasis likely to have a harmful effect (Duckworth, 1988).Duckworth’s interpretation of the evidence is that students who are not performing atlevels that are at or above ‘pass’ are prone to lower their own expectations and acquireattitudes of futility about their own efforts unless teachers go to some lengths to makethem fully involved in the assessment process, including developing a sense ofempowerment There does not appear to be any research on the differential effect, on18

teachers and on pupils, that high stakes assessment may have in English andmathematics.2.2.6 Impacts of preparation for national curriculum testsThere is clear evidence that repeated practice of the kind of questions found in testscan improve performance (Brown et al., 2002). It is worth noting, however, that thiscan detract from teachers’ beliefs about what is important in their subject (Berry,2002), and lead them to concentrate upon using practice tests to check progressagainst achievement objectives. Hopkins et al. (2003) suggested that a series ofspecially made television programmes could extend KS1 pupils’ skills across a widerspectrum of assessment items, perhaps counter-balancing a tendency for teachers tofocus on items assessed in tests. This raises the question that intensive testpreparation may lessen the attention given by teachers to teaching the development ofhigher level skills in either English or mathematics.2.2.7 The role of subject co-ordinatorsSubject co-ordinators for English and mathematics occupy central roles in a primaryschool’s implementation of the PNS. Despite this, very little is known about whatsubject co-ordinators actually do and the effectiveness of different ways in which theymight operate, both in terms of securing pupils’ progress and in terms of contributingto their colleagues’ professional development (Millett et al., 2004). Medwell et al.(1998) noted that taking on the role of a literacy co-ordinator greatly increasedteachers’ effective literacy practices. They also noted that not being literacy coordinatormeant that a teacher’s chances of becoming effective in teaching literacywere diminished. Similarly, Brown et al. (2003) found that in any staff there werelikely to be some teachers who were more effective as teachers of mathematics thanwere others. These teachers were often (although not always) the mathematics coordinators.However, only where opportunities existed or were created for suchteachers to share their knowledge and expertise individually did their expertise spreadto other staff.19

2.2.8 Special programmes and withdrawal groupsIn recent years there has been a sharp increase in the number of special initiativesdesigned to assist schools in supporting all children to reach their potential in Englishand mathematics. These include “booster groups”, and such initiatives as AdditionalLiteracy Support (ALS), Extra Literacy Support (ELS) and Further Literacy Support(FLS). Similarly, the PNS has developed a range of mathematics support initiativesincorporated under Springboard. How these intervention programmes are actuallyused in schools, their impacts on pupils’ gains in English and mathematics and howteachers make decisions and judgements in selecting pupils are questions whichprevious research has not yet addressed. They are questions that come into the rangeof issues established in this discussion (see Chapter 1) as coming into teachingapproaches. Interestingly, inspection evidence (Ofsted, 2004) points to theimportance of special educational needs (SEN) co-ordinators’ ability to targetinterventions appropriately and with sufficient awareness of pupils’ needs andabilities in making such programmes effective. It may be that effective English andmathematics co-ordination requires similar skills.Research on how schools use special programmes in Year 6 as a means of movingpupils to level 4 is lacking. Galloway and Goodwin (1987) found that some pupilsmake sufficient progress, while receiving extra help, to achieve level 4, but that thesepupils often need continuing support to maintain their gains, possibly in the form oftheir regular class teachers actively reinforcing the progress made. Recently, in astudy by the University of Leeds (DfES, 2004), comparative data on the effectivenessof the FLS showed that gains in Year 5 pupil attainment have been evident over the 8month investigation period.2.2.9 Teaching assistantsWithin most primary schools there is now a range of teaching assistants – rangingfrom generalists, to specialists (sometimes allocated to specific pupils), and seniorclassroom assistants. It is now more than ten years since Thomas (1992) drewattention to the increase in personnel in primary classrooms. How these people areused is as much a matter for school policy as for the individual teacher. A criticalfactor is likely to be time for planning and co-ordination. Teaching assistants can beasked to work with small groups of pupils with SEN, or to supervise the rest of the20

class, thus enabling the teacher to concentrate on these pupils. Blatchford et al.(2004), in their research report on the role of teaching assistants, suggest that there islittle evidence that the use of these assistants has led to a measurable improvement inpupil achievement, but that their role is valued by both staff and pupils (p.68).However, there seemed to be a need to build in more opportunity for planning, coordinationand evaluation of lessons. This is of particular importance as most ofteaching assistants’ time is spent in direct interaction with pupils, not in generaladministrative support. Ofsted (2004) highlighted that teaching assistants requireskills and knowledge to be able to diagnose sources of difficulty experienced bypupils in order that they spend their time productively, such as directing their effortstowards supporting students and resolving their difficulties with learning.2.2.10 Contacts with parentsThe 1997 White Paper set out the Government’s strategy for extending parentalinvolvement. While breakdown in relations between parents and schools appears tobe fairly rare (Westergard and Galloway, 2004), it seems that teachers in manyschools felt that parents do not adequately support their children’s education.Desforges (2003:1) cited the European Commission as holding that the degree ofparental participation is a significant predictor of the quality of schooling. HisExecutive Summary notes that: “some parents are put off by feeling put down byschools and teachers” (p.v). The most significant finding of his review, however, wasthat ‘at home good parenting’ has a significant positive effect on children’sachievement and adjustment even after all other factors shaping attainment have beencontrolled for.Most studies reviewed by Desforges showed that parental involvement in the schoolbrought little or no benefit. The question, then, for present purposes is how schoolsmay contribute to the “at home good parenting” that has such a significant effect.Clearly, it is unhelpful if parents’ contacts with the school lead them to feel they areseen as having little to offer. Home-school policies have the potential to make parentsfeel valued and to help them to understand how they can play a major role in theirchild’s education by supporting the school.21

Desforges’ (2003) conclusion is that a family’s “education culture” is related to workhabits, academic guidance and support for children, and stimulating children to thinkabout issues in the wider environment. Concerns relevant to the present research arewhether schools have effective policies and practices for liaising with parents that aidthe development of subject-specific high attainment. While teachers’ perceptions ofparental support will be of interest, the extent to which homework tasks in eachsubject make it possible for parents to support their children’s learning at school willbe particularly important. This view receives support from Baker and Street (2003),who argued that school tasks should be embedded in purposeful, meaningful contexts,which pupils have experienced and to which they can relate. Baker and Street arguedthat transfer of learning from school to home can be undermined by differences inhome and school practice.2.3 Effective Practice in Achieving Consistency in Level 4 between Englishand Mathematics2.3.1 Defining effective practice - literacyFew studies have defined effective literacy teaching using the measure of students’progress. In a review, Hall and Harding (2003) found that only three studies definedeffectiveness in this empirical manner and met all their quality criteria (also seeTaylor et al., 2000). Moreover, when effective teachers were nominated by specialistsin their subject, not all nominees proved to be effective on empirical criteria of theirpupils’ progress (Taylor et al., 2000; Wharton-McDonald et al., 1998). Research hasbeen conducted which assigned effectiveness to literacy teachers on the basis ofjudgements by head teachers and others in management and/or leadership roles(Wragg et al., 1998; Medwell et al. 1998; Millet et al., 2004). These were consideredearlier in this chapter under ‘subject knowledge’. Another important contributionfrom these studies is that they identify actual classroom practices that teachers judgedas effective. Hall and Harding (2003) went further in their review of objective studiesand found a broad consensus on the pedagogical practices of effective teachers.Specifically, they identified ten features as being of particular importance:• Balance. A key feature of effective literacy teaching is the conscious and skilfulbalancing of direct skills instruction with more holistic literacy activities groundedin children’s own experience. Skills teaching is blended with immersion in22

literature and writing. Hall and Harding quote Pressley (2001:49): “Effectiveteachers combine practices that work well for them without regard for theoreticalpurity in their teaching.”• Integration. Cross curricular links are a regular feature of the classrooms ofeffective teachers. Literacy is not taught in isolation from other parts of thecurriculum.• High levels of pupil engagement and instructional density. Students are on task,even when unsupervised. They talk about their work with little time wasting.Teachers are skilled in recognising opportunities as they arise and linking themwith their teaching.• Excellent classroom management. Effective teachers in these studies taught in avariety of ways. Collaboration with pupils on rules and routines enabled them tomake high demands on pupils. The focus was on creating opportunities forlearning and minimising time-consuming, non-demanding tasks.• A positive, reinforcing and co-operative environment. As in the seminal study ofRutter et al. (1979) in secondary schools, rewards are widely distributed.Disruptive behaviour is rare, and when it occurs is dealt with positively andconstructively. Pupils are encouraged to work cooperatively.• Encouragement of self regulation. This is encouraged, for example, by teachingpupils strategies for checking their own written work and choosing books withintheir reading ability. Poor work is not accepted.• Teaching style: differentiated instruction. Pupils’ progress is monitored carefullyand regularly. Tasks are structured and sequenced in ways that facilitate learningwithout reducing the need for pupils themselves to make an effort. Grouping andre-grouping of children is for instructional purposes, not to create fixed abilitygroups.• Links with parents and the local community. The most highly rated study in Halland Harding’s (2003) review identified close links with parents and the localcommunity as highly significant (Taylor et al., 2000). This was also a key featurein the work of Dean et al. (2004) in Canada.• Teacher beliefs. Effective teachers had a strong core of professional knowledge,underpinned by coherent personal philosophies. They believed in their ability torelate these to the needs of individual students, and that “no barrier to a student’s23

learning was greater than their own professional competencies to overcome it”(Hall and Harding, 2003:44). In other words, neither pupil problems such as lowability or dyslexia, nor perceived lack of parental interest were regarded asbarriers.• Professional lives. Schools can make teachers feel that their professional work isvalued, and effective teachers continue their own professional development.A striking feature emerges from this profile of successful English teachers. It clearlyis not concerned primarily with a single method, but rather with a skilled use of avariety of teaching practices. Because the focus of the research was on literacyteaching, these examples were drawn from literacy, but each feature can also be seenas a characteristic of good teaching practices in general rather than specifically ofliteracy teaching in particular.2.3.2 Defining effective practice - numeracyJust as there is a lack of research based on objective evidence (i.e. identifyingeffective teaching by pupil attainment outcomes) of effective literacy practice, there isalso little research evidence exists which links features of mathematics teaching topupil attainments. Mention (see 2.1.2 above) has been made of the work of Brown etal. (2002) who found that features of teaching emphasised in the NNS framework hada remarkably low correlation with pupil outcomes (Brown et al., 2002). Beyond this,research on literacy teaching contrasts with research on effective teaching ofmathematics in that the latter seems to focus closely on specific teaching methods forteaching mathematics rather than on features of effective teaching that could happento be valid in other curricular subjects. Thus effective mathematics teaching may beaimed primarily, if not uniquely, at promoting pupil learning of specific theoreticalconcepts of mathematical thinking. Some studies have aimed to evaluate assumptionsabout effective teaching implicit in the NNS (Brown et al., 2002; Askew et al., 1997).The focus tends to be on the development of children’s abilities to use and applymathematics rather than to perform mechanical skills. In this sense it is consistentwith the concern for authentic, contextually grounded activities in literacy research,although the degree of specification (of task to intended learning outcome) is higherthan in effective literacy features. Also, there is generally less emphasis on thedevelopment of cross curricular links and certainly less on presenting tasks in ways24

that enable parents to help their children. So for present purposes the conclusion hereis that while there is no prima facie reason for doubting that each feature of the profileof effective literacy teachers will apply equally to the effective teaching ofmathematics, it is less clear whether what seems to hold good for effectivemathematics teaching can be used as criteria for effective literacy teaching.2.4 Effective practice in achieving consistency in level 4 between boys andgirls2.4.1 Gender and literacy and mathematicsEqual opportunities and gender in education are areas that have received sustainedresearch interest for many years. The methodologies and styles of such research havevaried. Thus, in their systematic review of classroom strategies for reducingstereotypical gender constructions among girls and boys in mixed primary schools inthe UK, Frances, Skelton and Archer (2002) traced only nine studies with outcomedata (i.e. based on pupil attainments as evidence) on strategies to reduce stereotyping.Single sex settings were reported as effective when their aim was to increase girls’self confidence and/or to encourage girls to experiment with non-gender-traditionalactivities. Such settings also helped boys to tackle aspects of traditional masculineattitudes and behaviour. Nevertheless, single-sex settings also appeared capable ofproducing less desirable consequences, such as behaviours and attitudes of morenegative kinds. In contrast, mixed settings were thought to be effective in encouragingcross gender friendships, reducing stereotypical curriculum preferences, particularlywith younger children, and tackling stereotypical attitudes and behaviours, throughdiscussion and awareness of the perspective of the opposite sex.Boys’ attitudes to reading and writing have caused concern in recent years. Loss ofinterest and motivation, together with lower self-esteem and expectations, are oftendiscussed. Millard (1997) points to problems of involving boys in the full range ofwriting genres in primary schools. Girls were more confident than boys across awider variety of genres. Also, boys’ attitudes to writing were found to be morenegative than girls’.25

2.4.2 Gender and assessmentResearch on assessment and motivation indicated that although almost all pupils showanxiety about high stakes assessment, girls are particularly susceptible (Reay andWilliam, 1999; Benmansour, 1999). They also make more internal attributions ofsuccess or failure than boys, with consequences for their self esteem (Evans andEngelberg, 1988). In Evans and Engelberg’s research, though, both boys and girls inYear 6 were much more likely to respond to a difficult task in a “mastery oriented”way, with the difficulty spurring them to overcome the problem and improve theirperformance.National data shows that of pupils who do not achieve level 4 in both subjects, girlsare more likely to achieve it in English and boys in mathematics – although it needs tobe noted that the discrepancy is greater in English than in mathematics, and whilstscores are similar in mathematics at level 4, at level 5 there was a larger gap betweenthe per cent of boys and girls reaching this level (DfES, 2004).Table 2.1 Comparative KS 2 results for English and mathematics (DfES 2004)Key Stage 2Results 2004 - % of pupils who achieved specific level or aboveMaths Level 4 English Level 4 Maths level 5 English Level 5Boys 75 73 33 21Girls 74 83 29 33Results for 2003 and 2002Boys 7370322173702924Girls 72812633737925342.5 OutcomesFrom the above discussion of the literature the following set of key areas for furtherexploration emerges. These are:26

• Teachers’ Subject Knowledge: nature and depth of teachers’ subject contentknowledge of English and mathematics and how this informs their teaching ofliteracy and numeracy• Teachers’ Knowledge and Practice of Subject Pedagogies: nature and depthof literacy and numeracy teachers’ knowledge of teaching strategies(pedagogies) and how this draws upon their subject content knowledge and isapplied in their teaching; their use of different teaching methods, such asinteractive, whole-class teaching, small group work, collaborative learningbetween pupils, individualised and differentiated learning.• Teachers’ Decision-making Process: how teachers make decisions aboutselecting different teaching methods for different purposes and differentpupils; what knowledge about their pupils informs this process.• Literacy and Numeracy Policy Implementation: tracking policyimplementation in literacy and numeracy from school level, through subjectco-ordinators and into literacy and numeracy teaching in classrooms; howthese policies were arrived at and how they are monitored.• Pupil Grouping for Learning: how teachers group pupils in their classroom forlearning in English and mathematics; what policy the schools have for this;how that policy has been developed and how it is monitored.• Pupil Preferences and Awareness: pupils’ preferences towards learningEnglish and mathematics; aspects of English and mathematics theylike/dislike; their awareness of targets, their awareness of groupingarrangements for learning; their awareness of any impact of targets upon theirlearning.• Responses to national targets: at school, subject and class levels, howperformance is monitored and policies for maintaining progress are developed.• Work of literacy and numeracy co-ordinators: how effectiveness isunderstood; what forms of target-setting occur and how decisions relating tothis, such as pupil-level interventions, are taken and how their effects aremonitored; how and what resources become deployed, such as teachingassistants, and their effects monitored; what kind of leadership for subjectknowledge and subject pedagogy is displayed by subject-co-ordinators.27

• School-level leadership issues that affect literacy and numeracy teaching:values attributed by Head Teachers to English and mathematics; forms ofsupport and advocacy; policies for liaison between home and school andeffectiveness and monitoring of these; awareness of and responsiveness toissues affecting pupil performance (such as gender differences, groups ofunder-achieving or low attaining pupils, patterns of school performance inEnglish and mathematics national tests).These areas informed the development of the data-collecting instruments explained inChapter 3 and through which the project is addressing the research questions providedin Appendix 1.28

Chapter 3 Methodology3.0 Introduction.In exploring the questions posed by this research study a decision had to be madeabout the relative merits of a quantitative or qualitative approach. A quantitativeapproach would have involved the collection of a large amount of run-out data whichcould then have been analysed statistically. Two problems arise from this approach.One relates to the necessary timescale within which the exercise would need to becompleted and the second relates to the kind of information that was required by theexploratory nature of the research. In a sense the second is the most important. Infocussing upon teaching approaches it was decided that this study would try to gain anunderstanding of the culture or climate within which a school operated and identifykey issues which were influential in how schools both perceived and executed theirdevelopment plans as these plans would inevitably impact upon performance inmathematics and English. A quantitative approach would not be appropriate for thispurpose and it was decided that an in-depth qualitative study of a small number ofschools would better understand the questions that needed to be explored. Thus thedecision was made to select a sample of nine schools (three schools with reasonablyconsistent level 4 results in English and mathematics in each of the last three years,three with consistently better results in English and three with consistently betterresults in mathematics). However, it needs to be emphasised that schools with betterresults in one subject even over the last three years were unlikely to maintain thatpattern into a fourth year. Similarly, schools with consistent results in the past mightdo significantly better, or less well, in one subject in a fourth year. In any school,factors such as teacher turnover, especially in Year 6, could lead to changes in level 4results. Even random fluctuations in ability between one year’s cohort of pupils andthe next could affect a school’s attainment. Changes in school policy and priorities,perhaps in response to the previous year’s results, could lead to changes in the patternof level 4 achievement in the mathematics and English.3.1 Overall research design.Nine schools were selected from LEAs in the North East of England for case studyvisits. In order to examine teaching approaches in a variety of contexts of pupil29

achievement, each of the case study schools was chosen to fall into one of threegroups:• schools with substantially more pupils achieving level 4 in mathematics overthe last three years (group Ma);• schools with substantially more achieving level 4 in English over the last threeyears (group En); and• schools with reasonably consistent results across the two subjects (group Co).An attempt was made to ensure that each group contained a range of schools. As theemphasis was on teaching approaches that were contributing to achievement of level4, the higher subject in the first two groups, and both in the third, were at least at thenational average.3.2 Sample3.2.1 SchoolsFor the selection of nine schools in the North east of England details of schools in thefollowing LEAs were obtained: Darlington, Durham, Gateshead, Hartlepool,Humberside, Leeds, Middlesbrough, Newcastle, North Tyneside, North Yorkshire,Stockton, Redcar, Sheffield, South Tyneside, Sunderland, West Yorkshire, Wakefield.A long list of schools was created taking account of the following features:• the size of the classes 3 ;• level of free school meals 4 ;• ethnicity 5 ;• average level 4 results at or above national target in at least one subject.Table 1.2 in Appendix 2 shows the long list from which the schools were chosen.The sampling exercise was undertaken in three parts. First a trawl was made ofprimary schools in the North East excluding Yorkshire authorities. When the samplefrom this data set was examined it was clear that it would not be a sufficientlyrepresentative sample. Thus a second, wider trawl was made to include a large part ofYorkshire. This provided a better sample of schools to visit. In order to check thatthe achievement pattern observed was representative of the country as a whole, a third3 This needed to be >30.4 It was necessary to have a range in order to provide a reasonable sample.5 It was necessary to try and find some schools with a varied ethnic mix.30

trawl was made , for comparison purposes, of schools in Liverpool, Bristol,Birmingham and Essex. A discussion of the implications of the sampling exerciseand the nature of consistency is undertaken in chapter 7. Here it is simply noted that asample of nine schools was selected from trawl 2, which as far as possible representedthe three achievement groups Ma, En and Co. These also contained schoolsrepresenting different social groupings as illustrated in Table 3.1 below:Table 3.1: Information on Schools involved as Case StudiesSchoolCodeRelativeperformance inmathematicsCatchmentcharacteristicsEthnicmix% ofpupilswithFreeschoolmeals dataand EnglishSENA similar mainly local low 19.7% averageauthority housingB similar mixed housing low 50% well aboveaverageC similar mainly localauthority housinglow 9% aboveaverageD English superior mixed housing aboveaverage15.3% belowaverageE English superior mixed housing low 20.1% well aboveaverageF English superior mixed housing low 38% averageG mathematicssuperiormainly localauthority housinghigh 8.8%% well aboveaverageH mathematicssuperiormixed housing low 30% belowaverageI mathematicssuperiormixed housing low 26.5% average31

3.2.2 Procedures for data collectionAll schools participating in this study were visited for four days. During the visits thefollowing methods were employed to collect the data on specially designedproformas. The copies of forms used are provided in Appendix 3. Data collectedfrom each school included:• observation of an English and a mathematics lesson in each of Year 3 to Year6;• detailed notes of interviews with the head teacher, mathematics and Englishco-ordinator and a class teacher from each of Years 3 – 6;• detailed notes from focus group meetings with six pupils from each yeargroup, Year 3 to Year 6, male, female and a range of attainment; and• illustrative samples of completed and marked work in literacy and numeracy,and their medium term planning for each subject.3.2.3 Profile of schools visitedGroup “Co”- consistent performance across mathematics and EnglishSchool A is located in a residential area consisting mainly of local authority builtproperty. There are about 130 pupils in the school. Children start school in thenursery, where overall attainment is below that typical of three-year-olds with someshowing severe deficit in language and social skills. Forty-seven per cent of pupils areeligible for free school meals. Very few pupils are from ethnic minority groups andnone speak English as an additional language. Twenty per cent of pupils are on theschool’s register of special educational needs, mostly for moderate learningdifficulties. The school is part of the local Education Action Zone (EAZ).School B is situated 7 miles from the centre of a major city. The number of pupilsattending the school is about 150 and is increasing. The percentage of pupils whosefirst language is not English is low and all pupils are of white ethnic origin. Thepercentage of pupils eligible for free school meals is 57%. The percentage of pupilswith special educational needs, including pupils with a Statement of SpecialEducational Need, is well above the national average at almost 50%. The attainmentof children when they start school is very low, particularly in communication skills.32

School C is situated in a small town in West Yorkshire and is bigger than many otherprimary schools. The school serves an area of high unemployment with mainlyhousing trust or privately rented accommodation. Only a small number of houses areprivately-owned properties. Most children have attended the school’s nursery prior tostarting school and their attainment on entry is generally well below what might beexpected nationally. There are approximately 360 girls and boys who attend theschool, plus 74 children who attend the nursery on a part-time basis. There are nopupils whose first language is believed not to be English. Thirty eight per cent ofpupils are entitled to free school meals. The school has 41 pupils on its register ofpupils with special educational needs, of whom six pupils have a formal Statement ofSpecial Educational Need.Group “En” – English performance superiorSchool D is a voluntary aided Roman Catholic (RC) primary school of average size(about 180 pupils). The school is of average size and has 254 boys and girls including26 full time equivalent nursery pupils. It serves a very mixed catchment area close tothe city centre. The percentage of pupils who claim free school meals is belowaverage. About 20% of the pupils are from ethnic minority backgrounds and a fewpupils speak English as an additional language. About 25% of pupils are on theregister of special educational needs. The attainment of pupils on entry to nurserycovers a wide variety of levels but many pupils are below average.School E is a medium-sized voluntary aided RC primary school taking pupils fromfour to 11 years old and serves an area of a large city. There are about 200 full-timepupils in seven classes. Many pupils start school with standards of attainment wellbelow average. The percentage of pupils known to be eligible for free school meals iswell above the national average. The percentage of pupils identified as having specialeducational needs is in line with the national average. There are very few pupils fromethnic minority backgrounds, and two require extra support for learning English.School F is situated outside a large city. The school, together with its nursery which issituated on the same site, currently has 220 pupils with about 60 attending the nurseryon a part-time basis. Local housing is mainly rented from the local authority or ahousing association, and there are substantial numbers of owner-occupied homes.33

There is a considerable level of economic and social deprivation in the area, with over50% of the pupils being entitled to free school meals. Attainment on entry to theschool is well below expected standards, with particularly low levels of languagedevelopment. About 20% of pupils are on the register of special educational needs.Very few pupils are from ethnic minority backgrounds and less than two per cent ofpupils come from homes where English is an additional language.Group “Ma” – mathematics performance superiorSchool G is in a large housing estate close to the centre of a major city. The homes inthe area are mainly local authority owned, or part of a Housing Trust development,including houses, maisonettes and high rise flats. Most pupils at the school live on theestate. There are about 200 pupils on the school roll. More than 60% of pupils areeligible for free school meals. Seven pupils have statements of special educationalneed. There are 70 pupils in total on the special educational needs register. The schoolhas more children from ethnic minorities than most schools. Attainment on entry tothe nursery is well below average and although attainment improves during thechildren's time in the nursery, it is still below average when they enter the receptionclass.School H is situated in a small village. It has about 150 pupils all from the local area.The proportion of pupils known to be entitled to receive free school meals is 22%Three pupils have statements of special educational needs and in all 43 pupils are onthe school’s register of pupils with special educational needs. The majority of pupilsare of white British heritage with a very small proportion of other European heritage.However, there are no pupils who speak English as an additional language. Theattainment of pupils entering the school varies considerably but is well below thenational average.School I is community primary school taking pupils from four to 11 years old, islocated at a small coastal town and serves a large housing estate. There are about 270pupils on roll in ten classes. Many pupils start school with standards of attainmentwell below those usually expected. Thirty six per cent of the pupils are eligible forfree school meals: this is above the national average. Thirty per cent of the pupils areon the special educational needs register which is also above the national average.34

There are seven pupils for whom English is an additional language, but none of thesepupils is at an early stage of learning English.3.3 Design and construction of pro-formas for data collectionThe design of each instrument was a compromise between the need to collect data ofobvious and immediate relevance to the research and the need to understand such datain its educational context by collecting the widest possible range of information. Afurther consideration given to the design of the instruments was ease of data analysis.This was particularly important in view of the fact that this was a project with a shorttime scale. The literature review indicated the factors at school and classroom levellikely to be relevant in understanding teaching approaches. As far as possible, indesigning each pro-forma, the curriculum, school policy and the classroom practiceissues were considered separately.Each type of data collection pro-forma was piloted in two schools. Both schools hadconsistently high level 4 results in both English and mathematics in the previous threeyears. One school had a below average percentage of pupils receiving free schoolmeals and parents of many pupils were in professional jobs. The other school had anabove average percentage of pupils receiving free school meals and was in an area ofhigh unemployment. After reviewing both the process of data collection and the dataitself, some changes 6 were made to the pro-formas. It is the final pro-formas thatappear in appendix 3.3.4 Procedures for data collectionTape recorded interviews with teachers were not requested, nor was any video- oraudio-recording of lessons undertaken. Data collectors made notes throughout theinterviews or lessons observed. As soon as possible afterwards these were annotatedin order to provide the richest possible information and to clarify possible areas ofambiguity. Five of the pupil focus groups were audio-taped with the explicit priorpermission of the head teacher and parents. This was because it proved difficult for asingle data collector to make detailed notes while interacting with a focus group of six6 These included eliminating overlap between questions, revising layout to assist both data collectorsand research team.35

children. By having some focus groups audio taped, the research team could seewhether richer data were generated.During visits, data collectors observed an English and a mathematics lesson in Year 3,4, 5 and 6, interviewed each class teacher, two subject co-ordinators and the headteacher, and held four focus group sessions with pupils 7 . In addition, in each schooldata collectors obtained samples of marked pupils’ work in each subject and each yeargroup and samples of teachers’ planning from each subject and year group. In thefinal analysis this data was not used as it did not add anything substantial to theanalysis.3.5 Procedures for data analysis.The data from each school were read by another team member, who transcribedinformation of particular relevance to the research questions on to data summarysheets. As far as possible, data were then re-read by other members of the team, whochecked the accuracy of summaries to field notes. This gave an overview of a verylarge amount of data, from which two sets of profiles were produced:(a) a profile of each school, and of each group of schools;(b) a profile of data relevant to each of the research questions, based on the structureof each pro-forma.In practice, the first of these was useful in giving an overview of the data but not inreporting the findings, because the patterns of level 4 results in English andmathematics in previous years were not necessarily being maintained in the year ofthis research.7 One session was conducted with each year group (Y3-Y6)36

Chapter 4 Perceptions on preferences and challenges in theEnglish and mathematics curricula4.0 IntroductionThis chapter examines evidence found of the curriculum as a possible source ofinfluence upon consistency of results. Findings relating to teachers’ awareness ofpupils’ patterns of achievement, how they identify and address low or underachievement,areas in English and mathematics that teachers identify as challenging inboth subjects and areas that pupils say they find challenging are all explored in thischapter. Thus a range of perceptions of the curriculum are reported here, drawing oninformation from pupils, head teachers, subject co-ordinators and class teachers.4.1 Pupils’ perceptionsPupils in each focus group were asked a range of questions about whether theypreferred English or mathematics, which they thought important and why, and whattheir experiences were of learning the subjects. Pupils always appeared enthusiasticand keen to talk about both subjects and be asked their opinions about their ownlearning 8 .Finding 1: In no school was there an overall pupil preference for one subjector another, nor was there an overall dislike of both subjects.Finding 2: Age and gender did not seem to have marked influences uponpupil preferences.Finding 3: There was no observable connection between pupils’ preferencesand a school’s pattern of performance in national tests.With a small sample of nine schools, it may not be surprising that the research foundno clear school trends in pupil preferences for subjects or any links betweenpreferences the pupils reported and their school’s performance. Perhaps what wasremarkable were that a wide range of pupil preferences was uncovered across years8 Separating the responses of lower ability pupils from those of average or high ability was not possibledue to the researchers not knowing the pupils’ ability levels.37

and varying across sex in each school. The following selection of three quotes givesexamples of the evidence for findings 1 - 3.“Maths is fun. We enjoy the games.”(Y3, statement produced unanimously by 3 boysand 3 girls, school A, group Co)“Writing stories… using my imagination…”(Y4 girl, school A, group Co, on why she prefersEnglish)Equally, two girls (Y6, school C, group En) declared in unison:“… maths is easier and I enjoy working things out.”To illustrate the complexity of pupils’ responses even further in one school wherepupils tended to perform higher in mathematics, preferences for English were notespecially outweighed by their preferences for mathematics. Here, reasons for likingEnglish more often concerned reading. At the same time these did not appear to fallinto any stereotypical models:“I like reading and stories…”(Y5 boy, school G, group Ma)“I like stories and finding out…”(Y5 girl, school G, group Ma)“I like learning to read…I like reading a lot.”(Y5, boy, school G, group Ma)“I like reading to find out facts…”(Y4, girl, school G, group Ma))Many replies across all schools focussed on the pupils’ emotional reactions to eachsubject. The following sample demonstrates how comments ranged across allschools:“I like English because it’s easier and I’m good at it.”(Y5, 2 boys and 2 girls, school A, group Co)“I like numbers… there’s more things to do in maths and you can go further.”(girl, school B, group Co)“Easier than English.”(Y6, girl, school D, group En)38

“I don’t like stories. You have to think of the words. Poems – you have to writea lot. That’s hard.”(Y3 boy, school E, group En)“I enjoy stories and finding out. (I’m) better at it than maths.”(girl, Y5 , school G, group Ma)“Maths is. ..(hard)…like a different language.”(boy, Y6, school E, group Ma)Where the school’s mathematics performance was either consistent with English orhigher, there were some indications that pupils’ preferences for mathematics were atleast as strong as for English. In two of the three schools where mathematics washigher, there seemed to be a slight preference for mathematics. This was notassociated with any patterning by gender. In schools where English performance washigher, there were slight indications that English was more popular among girls.Differences were found between classes within some schools, but no consistentdifferences either within or between schools.Finding 4: Pupil responses did not indicate clear patterns with regard tochallenging areas of the English or mathematics curricula.The area of difficulty in English most frequently cited by pupils was simply ‘writing’,and in mathematics most difficulty was stated with ‘problem solving’. These areasare wide in their potential meaning and do not yield much useful diagnosticinformation. However, although appearing frequently, these areas were not cited in allschools as being challenging. In one school with a record of good results inmathematics (school G), pupils across all ages were most enthusiastic about preciselyboth these aspects of the two subjects. They felt they could achieve well inmathematics, enjoying puzzles and problems, and also found reading and writingstories fun.Finding 5: From Y3 upwards, children in all schools had some understandingof the importance of English and mathematics.39

There were, however, interesting differences between schools that were morediscernible than differences in pupil preferences. In some schools, pupils wereexplicitly, even narrowly, instrumental. In short, pupils presented a mixed range ofsubject preferences and opinions about the importance of doing well in one or other orboth subjects.Typical comments from a school in an average socio-economic area included:“Helps you with SATS (sic) and exams.”(boy,Y3, school F, group En)“Really important – to get a good job. If you get level 4 you can go to college oruniversity and pass exams.”(boy,Y5, school F, group En )“You won’t be able to earn good money if you don’t get good results.”(girl,Y5, school F, group En)“To get in good sets at High School.”(girl, Y6, school F, group En )“I’d be disappointed if I didn’t get level 4 because I want a good job.”(boy, Y6, school F, group En )In a minority of schools the instrumental focus was directed not towards secondaryschool sets, university and a “good job”, but rather towards the sort of jobs that pupilssaw lined up for them. This was the case at school A (group Co) in which, unusually,most responses emphasised the importance of mathematics rather than English.“If you work in Asda and the machines broke down, you’d need to be good atsums.”(boy, Y3, school A, group Co)“English is not as important. You’re never going to write stories unless you’re anauthor.”(girl,Y5, school A, group Co)“If you’re a teacher you need to be good at maths.”(boy, Y6, school A, group Co)In some schools it seemed that children had not considered that school work could beimportant for the present rather than the future. However, there were a few practicalconcerns:40

“Shopping and money ….need to tell the time.”(boy,Y3, school B, group Co),and one child observed:“Very important (to do well) in both (subjects), because if you get things rightpeople start liking you.”(girl,Y5, school E, group En)4.2 Head teachers’ perceptionsFinding 6: Adequacy of individual teachers’ subject knowledge was notspecifically a strong issue for head teachers: most felt their teachers hadsufficient subject knowledge of maths and English to teach it to the levelrequired of them.In general head teachers did not seem to perceive teachers’ subject knowledge as aseparate and distinct issue: rather it was more seen as an issue embedded withinstrategic plans for continuing staff development. Some head teachers identifiedbroad aspects of the curricula as problematic, others focussed on specific aspects ofthe curriculum that presented problems to teachers and learners; some answered in afocussed way about one subject but broadly with respect to another. But there was noconsistent pattern in their responses.“English: writing is the weakest skill area. In mathematics, interpreting questionsand using and applying maths.”(HT, school E, group En)“English: grammatical knowledge and understanding. Maths: calculation; (wehave) staff agreement to focus on key strategies.”(HT, school B, group Co)Other replies, though, went beyond the subject itself. After noting that genres hadpresented problems in English and shape and space in mathematics, one headobserved:41

“The NNS and NLS improved subject knowledge. The PNS relaxed this. Nowwe’re being encouraged to develop creativity. This has freed teachers fromobligations / mandatoriness.”(HT, school D, group En)In one school, the head teacher identified time management and adhering to theteaching pattern as recommended in the literacy hour and numeracy lesson as achallenge to his staff.“Both NLS and NNS are still presenting problems. Mainly in terms of time andstructure. We encourage independent work. We have made staff development apriority as a way of tackling these issues.”(HT, school C, group Co)Finding 7: Head teachers valued many aspects of NNS/NLS, especially asways of ensuring a degree of support for teaching, but they tended not to seethe NNS/NLS as fully answering teachers’ needs in terms of pedagogy forteaching English and mathematics.Head teachers were not directly asked about the adequacy of teachers’ subjectknowledge for teaching the English or mathematics curricula. Hence these twofindings (6 and 7) may need further investigation. However, a synthesis of responsesto other questions suggested that NNS and NLS were seen by head teachers asproviding useful support for teaching English and mathematics.In one school, the head had made a strategic move in response to a long-term problemby appointing the highly effective literacy co-ordinator to the role also of numeracyco-ordinator:“Mathematics subject knowledge (on the part of the mathematics co-ordinator)has been an issue but this is no longer the case because the postholder’sretired… so I’ve taken that as an opportunity to add that role to our very keenliteracy subject co-ordinator’s remit.”(HT, school D, group En).Heads in schools D (group En), E (group En) and I (group Ma) all said that the NLSand NNS had improved teachers’ subject knowledge.42

On the matter of teachers’ knowledge about how to teach (pedagogic knowledge ofmathematics and English), a number of opinions were offered (again, these were notdirectly sought). One head teacher (school G, group Ma) said“The large amount of training for NLS/NNS frameworks has been valuable.”Other heads’ comments endorsed this. However, one (school C, group Co) said that“Pedagogical knowledge is poor both in English and mathematics and bothstrategies are presenting problems.”Another head (school I, group Ma) described subject pedagogy as now “much betterthroughout” but complained that “teachers don’t seem to notice when children speakungrammatically.” This school had experienced significant staff turn-over in the lasttwo years and the head thought that new teachers needed training, but was notunhappy with the LEA’s provision.4.3 Subject co-ordinators’ perceptionsFinding 8: Subject co-ordinators showed considerable perceptiveness inidentifying problematic areas for teachers and pupils. They gave detailedinformation about challenges in the curriculum.Some subject co-ordinators cited specific aspects of the curriculum that were found tobe challenging to teachers and pupils. In mathematics these included longmultiplication and division, fractions, shape and space, and problem solving. This isinteresting because there are different issues here: the first is related to the idea ofchallenge in the learning opportunities presented to pupils, the second to technicallydifficult mathematical processes.Despite the natural tendency to avoid talking about teachers individually, coordinatorsdid understand individual staff and their subject strengths and weaknesses.One Literacy co-ordinator said that staff had difficulties with grammar and non-fictiontexts. In focussing on their colleagues’ experience of the curriculum, threemathematics co-ordinators hinted at problems:43

“People feel safe with number work ….. Teachers can concentrate on numbersand feel comfortable with it.”(school F, group En)“Numbers, because there’s a scheme / structure (but it) doesn’t challenge staff’sown knowledge.”(school G, group En)‘Colleagues find number work straightforward…right or wrong methods are clearin the NNS.’(school A, group Co)“They (teachers) can do it themselves, but they don’t always have the range ofskills to make it accessible to all pupils.”(school G, group En).Finding 9: Literacy co-ordinators tended to be less specific in identifyingchallenges than numeracy co-ordinators, and writing was seen as the area ofbiggest concern to pupils and teachers.Writing was both the most frequently mentioned challenge and also cited assomething that colleagues enjoyed teaching. The breadth of content to which‘writing’ might apply is probably too great for this to be a clear finding. Some of theexamples below illustrate this.“Staff realise there has to be equal weighting, but writing is the focus …. All staffhave been on a grammar for writing course.”(literacy co-ord, school C, group Co)One literacy co-ordinator said that shared work and writing stories were whatcolleagues enjoyed, but added that phonics and word banks:“fall into that category of things that just have to be done”(school E, group En).The above two quotes reflect an understanding that writing is somehow both achallenge and a source of fun to teachers. The mention in the quote above about44

phonics work and word banks is interpreted as indicating that co-ordinator’spreference for more creative aspects of writing.There was little cross-over between subjects in the subject co-co-ordinators’responses. However, one instance was notable: a numeracy co-ordinator identifiedmathematical vocabulary as a challenge for all, especially with older classes (schoolA, group En).By contrast with their literacy counterparts, numeracy co-ordinators were specific innaming aspects of the mathematics curriculum that posed challenges to teachers andto pupils:“For pupils…a constant need to watch the four rules of number…andfamiliarity with money and with time.”(almost identical words from numeracy coordinatorson schools D and E, group En)“..data handling and word problems 9 are hard (to teach)... and division.”(numeracy co-ordinator, school F, group En)“Pupils find the difference between parameter and area hard tograsp…(teachers) lack confidence about shape and space...”(numeracy co-ordinator, school I, group Ma)Finding 10: Subject co-ordinators were aware of their colleagues’ degrees ofconfidence as subject teachers and could relate this to their development needsand to ways forward for improving the quality of teaching in the subject.This finding was quite frequent and did not relate necessarily only to subjects whichwere achieving at national target levels. It could be found in either or both subjects inall schools in the study. This might indicate that subject co-ordination involvesadvanced leadership skills and is not necessarily immediately linked to visibleimprovements in pupil performance. Rather, a more complex set of relationships9 Word problems are mathematical problems expressed in words and sentences.’45

might exist to account for reaching performance targets, in which the skills of thesubject co-ordinator combined with the lead given by the head plays an importantrole.In one school both co-ordinators reported that their colleagues lacked confidence.One added that teachers always asked whether they had got the best out of thechildren. In English it could be hard to keep older pupils interested due to lack ofsuitable age-related materials, which points to a resource issue. In another school thereturn of greater flexibility over maintaining a close adherence to the NLS guidanceamong staff was implicit in the observation that:“Flexibility is beginning to come into the teaching.”(literacy co-ordinator, school C, group Co)Nevertheless, co-ordinators had clear priorities which guided them in setting abouttheir planning for continuing professional development, especially for NQTs:“New staff have to adapt ...Spelling is an element I’m not fully happy with…group learning strategies have to be learned…”(literacy co-ordinator, school G, group Ma)Comments by many subject co-ordinators showed this sense of detecting theircolleagues’ development needs. These were closely allied to realities of what theyknew their colleagues liked and disliked:“Teachers enjoy measures, space and shape - its fun, hands-on and they getopportunities for success. We have discussions about long division and longmultiplication – we need to get more consistency into our teaching of these.”(numeracy co-ordinator, school A, group En)“Colleagues rise to the challenge of being responsible for a group of children andmoving them on…we are well-resourced…I am available during my time offtimetable.”(literacy co-ordinator, school G, group Ma)“…people feel safe with number work, they know where they are…”(numeracy co-ordinator, school F, group En)46

4.4 Teachers’ perceptionsFinding 11: Teachers found a wide range of areas in English and mathematicschallenging; differences existed among teachers, even within schools.Although problem solving was cited more frequently than anything else aschallenging to them, there was a lot of variation between teachers 10 . Writing was afrequently mentioned problem in teaching English but, as in mathematics, individualteachers cited almost every aspect of the curriculum: including phonics, spelling,comprehension, listening skills, sentence construction, linking word level work andgrammar to text.Common examples of responses to questions about curricular areas in mathematicsand English presenting challenges to teachers included:“Differentiated work and problem solving: not so much learning transfer inmaths.”(Y3 teacher, school I, group Ma)“Problem solving in general.”(Y4 teacher and Y3 teacher school I, group Ma)“Word problems are the biggest difficulty (and) recording things systematically.(Also) fractions, time.”(Y4/5 teacher E, group En)“Word problem.”(Y6 teacher, school I, group Ma)“Problem-solving of more than one step, division hardest… writing ..(then, whenpressed) I mean accuracy, making sense…”(Y3 teacher, school B, group Co)“Number work…linking word level work to grammar and text …i.e. makingword work relevant...”(Y4 teacher, school B, group Co)10 ‘Problem-solving’ is a wide-ranging issue and could be seen as pervading the whole mathematicscurriculum.47

“Mental work…problem solving…writing in different styles…”(Y3 teacher, school F, group En)Finding 12: Teachers reported problems in teaching English that tended tocover a wider range of issues and go outside the subject itself, comparedproblems they reported in teaching mathematics.Within this finding, there is some evidence that boys and girls present differentproblems. Responses to a probing question about differences between literacyproblems experienced by boys and girls, boys’ problems emerged more often:“Very little general knowledge and poor vocabulary.”(Y5 teacher, school F, Group En)“Difficult to motivate pupils as they get older, particularly boys in current group.”“Keeping enthusiasm and motivation to write, especially for boys; they thinkstory writing is for girls.”(Y6 teacher, School H, Group Ma)Finding 13: Most teachers felt confident in their own ability to apply theirsubject knowledge in the classroom and there was generalacknowledgement of the importance of in-service training, provided byschool and LEA.This is interesting because the NLS/NNS frameworks have provided teachers with astrong degree of in-service support and so arguably have contributed to theirexpressed confidence. Nevertheless, the number of curricular issues (Finding 11)identified as challenges to their teaching still remain.“Training helped me teach speaking and listening skills. The literacy coordinatoris very approachable and passionate about improving literacy.”(Y3 teacher, school D, Group En)“I’m still learning quite a lot – used to younger pupils (but I’m) developingchallenges for the more able.”(Y3 teacher, school H, Group Ma)48

The opportunity to visit another school to watch another teacher was cited as one ofthe most valuable forms of professional development. Critical comments abouttraining provided locally were relatively infrequent.4.5 SummaryThere were no clear preferences or challenges which were consistent across thedifferent groups of schools or within the groups. In discussing challenges teacherstended to focus on substantial areas of the curriculum – for example problem solvingin mathematics and writing in English. Pupil responses simply showed great variationin the areas of the curriculum that they found difficult to master or indeed that theyliked.49

Chapter 5 The influence of school policy on classroomteaching approaches5.0 IntroductionIt was noted at the beginning of this report that the PNS is designed to raise standards.However, national strategies necessarily pass through several filters before theirimpact is felt in the classroom. For example, they are interpreted by LEA and/orEducation Action Zone (EAZ) advisory staff whose influence on head teachers mayvary from one school and LEA to another.In medium sized or large primary schools there are additional filters. Head teachersvary in how much they consult colleagues in formulating school policy. Furthermore,irrespective of the school’s policy decision making process, subject co-ordinators andother senior staff are also likely to exert some influence in how school policies, oncurriculum initiatives, are implemented at classroom level. Moreover, each teacheralso filters, or interprets, such school policies. For example, in some schools, in thisresearch, each class was divided into three ability groups. That was a matter of schoolpolicy. Yet how this actually operated inside the classroom varied from teacher toteacher.In schools with strong leadership one expects to find a higher level of consistency oncurriculum policy matters between classes. Obvious lack of consistency in majoraspects of curriculum teaching suggests weak leadership. A criterion for the selectionof schools in this research was that standards in both subjects, or the higher achievingsubject, were at least up to the national average. Hence, it was hoped to avoidselecting schools with significant weaknesses in school leadership and management.In the event this was successful. In each school, policy was influencing classroomteaching approaches in obvious and important ways despite each individual teacherhaving to make certain decisions of their own about implementation.This chapter is concerned with the ways in which school level policies influence thework in the classroom. Data for this chapter consist mainly of interviews with head50

teachers, interviews with subject co-ordinators and lesson observations. However,other data, such as interviews with class teachers, is also used.5.1 Awareness of patterns of achievementThe concern here is with the extent to which head teachers and subject co-ordinatorsrecognise and compare patterns of achievement in English and mathematics, and howsuch recognition is reflected in their planning at whole school level. There is also aconsideration of how far class teachers are aware of such differences.Finding 14: Head teachers could identify curricular policy and implementationdifferences of various kinds in their schools between mathematics and English.One of the areas discussed with the head teachers was the differences that theyperceived in the way mathematics and English were taught. It was clear that all thehead teachers were well aware of differences where they existed and were developingplans to address these, where appropriate. For example one head teacher said that:“Some years results in English are not good. It depends on the ability of thecohort. It’s easier to predict maths results.” (school H, group Ma )This head was anxious to point out that Ofsted had assessed the standard of teachingas good and that a small numbers of pupils could affect the statistics. Another headfelt that“…currently there was an inconsistent approach to target setting (between the twosubjects in their school)”and that there:“was a need particularly in mathematics to develop level descriptors in childfriendly language.”(school B, group Co)The head teacher of a school with historically high results in mathematics pointed outthat“…subject differences could be attributable to Year 6 cohorts having moreboys than girls.”(school G, group Ma)51

National statistics do not really support this view as gender differences are foundmainly in literacy, but there is a perception in this school that this may be an issue andtherefore needs to be addressed.Finding 15: While all head teachers were aware of overall patterns of achievement,there appeared to be differences in how closely these were monitored.In exploring the issue of awareness, an area of interest was how results and theprediction of results were monitored. Head teachers were clearly aware of resultsover the last couple of years. One head teacher reported that there was a highpercentage of level 5 pupils in both English and Mathematics in their school. Thishead teacher was also aware of the fact that“…Y4 boys particularly strong in mathematics ….Year 6 boys very good atEnglish….”(school B, group Co)Another head teacher was able to say that next year they were expecting a problemwith English and that it seemed to be related to the ability of the cohort. This headwas also able to say“…….about 75% level 4 for English with 25% borderline but 85-90% formathematics….. need for booster group…..”(school H, group Ma.)Most head teachers commented on the percentage of pupils achieving level 4 in eachsubject in previous years but were more concerned to focus on speed of progress:“Standards are rising. Lots of finance for training in English and mathematics,but especially in literacy we are not making the progress expected. Troubledpupils are a limiting factor. We’ve had new reading and maths schemes in placefor three years because pupils weren’t making sufficient progress.”(school G, group Ma)In contrast another head was less concerned with raising the number achieving level 4than with what she saw as effective learning:52

“(There was) rapid improvement before my appointment, but it wasn’tsustainable. Pupils were coached for the tests. Now we focus on setting targetsfor improvement.”(school I, group Ma)Two head teachers were candid about the reasons for differential achievement. Onepointed out that differences were more marked in the percentage of pupils achievinglevel 5 than level 4 11 but explained:“The co-ordinator in (the lower subject) had poor subject knowledge and wasabsent a lot – stress. So a Year 6 teacher, not a specialist in the subject, stepped inand has had to develop her own subject knowledge.”(school E, group En)Clearly head teachers were able to articulate the issues faced by their schools andwere identifying possible strategies for addressing them. It is also clear that the issuesare diverse and therefore often require approaches which are embedded in the localculture.Finding 16: Subject co-ordinators varied much more widely in their knowledgeof patterns of achievement.Responses from the co-ordinator, with regard to monitoring, reflected a different levelof awareness and engagement. Some said they were in the process of collecting data,one simply pointed to variation between cohorts, attributing these to pupils’ homebackgrounds. Another pointed out that results in each subject were in line withnational norms, adding that pupil turnover was a limiting factor as pupils entering theschool in Year 5 or Year 6 tended to be of lower ability. Most co-ordinators focusedtheir comments at a national comparison level. It seemed as if the co-ordinators had abroad overview picture whereas the head teachers had a more detailed picture.11 These were 55% of pupils in one subject but only 17% in the other.53

Finding 17: With very few exceptions, class teachers were much more precisethan either subject co-ordinators or head teachers about the attainments oftheir pupils.In exploring this same issue of awareness and monitoring of achievement the samequestions were also asked of the class teachers. Here there was a reasonablyconsistent pattern of the teachers being very aware of the number of pupils performingat which level and how many pupils were borderline for the next level. This was trueacross all classes but especially in Year 6. A typical example of the style of responsewas:“Reading higher than writing. Fairly able class – no pupils well belowexpectations. Currently all level 3+ in reading, but six below level 3 in writing.”(school B, group Co)The few replies that did not reach this level of detail were mostly newly appointedteachers or supply teachers. All level 6 teachers gave very specific replies - forexample:“70% secure level 4, 10% potential, 20% doubtful.”(school B, group Co)“60% secure, 40% doubtful.”(school I, group Ma)“L4 secure 22-23, potential 4, doubtful 4.”(school D, group En)Awareness of patterns of achievement is not necessarily a strong indicator of howsuch knowledge is used, nor about teachers’ beliefs in the possibility of improvement.These questions are addressed indirectly in the next section, where school policy andits impact in the classroom are discussed.54

5.2 School strategies to help pupils achieve level 4 in English andmathematicsThis section starts by noting the extent to which the sample schools were followingthe literacy and numeracy elements of the PNS, which for convenience is referred toas the NLS and NNS frameworks. Then the focus is on the nine aspects of schoolpolicy discussed in chapter 2 (2.3.1 and 2.3.2)5.2.1 Schools and the NLS and NNS FrameworksThe statutory requirement for schools is that they follow the national curriculum inmathematics and English. For most schools the vehicle through which this isobserved is through the NNS and the NLS frameworks. This section looks at the waythat schools use these frameworks.Finding 18: Only one school was not following the NLS/ NNS frameworks.In the school (school G, group Ma) not following the NLS/NNS frameworks, themathematics curriculum was based partly on the NNS framework. This school hadinvested £36,000 on the USA Success for ALL (SFA) scheme, seeing its emphasis onsmall group work as a way of targeting teacher intervention and making it moreeffective. This school placed more emphasis on collaborative learning and discussionbetween pupils than any of the other eight. The Year 6 class teacher was extremelyaware of pupils on the level 3 / 4 borderline. This awareness helped her to targetthese pupils with appropriate questions and constructive intervention.Yet, although most schools followed the NLS and NNS frameworks, there was atendency to stick more closely to the latter. Although in three schools, staff said thatthe NNS framework was applied flexibly, this was explained as using Unit Plans 12selectively rather than entailing significant alterations to the structure or content of thenumeracy lesson. The NNS framework was seen as more logical than the NLSframework, with appropriate sequencing of skills and tasks. Yet the pace of thenumeracy lesson was seen as a problem in two schools, with insufficient time to12 Unit plans are sets of lesson plans available on the Standards site (www.standards.dfes.gov.uk).They provide detailed notes on how to develop a set of lessons on a particular topic in the NNS andNLS55

consolidate what had been learnt. In contrast, there was some feeling that the literacyhour provided insufficient time to address all the NLS objectives, for example:“Children would like more time to complete their work. They’re always beingrushed on to the next topic. We’re trying to change this.”(Group En., School E)At least two schools had moved guided reading out of the literacy hour to make moretime for other literacy activities. In particular, lack of time for sustained writing wasseen as a problem:“Story writing is still a problem. The literacy hour doesn’t lend itself to wholestory writing. We’ve introduced an extended writing session on Friday instead ofthe literacy hour.”(Y5 teacher, school C, group En)Difficulties with developing pupil writing skills was a factor mentioned in a numberof other schools as well. All the schools except school I in Group Ma mentioneddifficulties with writing within the Literacy hour.Data collectors frequently noted on lesson observation pro-formas that the NLSframework was followed “loosely” or “flexibly”, while the NNS framework wasfollowed “closely”. Typical comments on the latter were:“Planning has been re-ordered. There’s some flexibility in terms of learningobjectives to meet pupils’ needs. Changes have been useful in empoweringstaff.”(school A, group Co)“More flexible. If we stuck to it exactly we wouldn’t get results. NLS pace issometimes too slow.”(school E, group En)This greater flexibility was generally welcomed. The one literacy co-ordinator whothought that increasing flexibility was having an adverse effect on sentence and textlevel work was a lone voice.56

5.2.2 Generalist class teachersFinding 19: All nine schools taught English and mathematics separately, assubjects. This was usually but not exclusively undertaken by generalistteachers.In Year 3 and Year 4 every school employed generalist class teachers to cover thecore curriculum subjects of English, mathematics and science and, in most cases,every other subject too. The same applied in Year 5 and Year 6 with the exception ofone school.There was no clear evidence from the data of problems in subject knowledge, nor inpedagogic subject knowledge.5.2.3 Ability groupingFinding 20: All schools grouped pupils by ability in Year 5 and Year 6.One school (school C, group Co) divided pupils from the outset in Year 3 into twostreams, known as sets within the school, and within each class pupils were furthersub-divided into two ability groups. In most of the remaining schools ability-basedgrouping took the form of grouping within each class according to the subject beingtaught. In one school (school F, group En), children in each class sat at mixed abilityand mixed gender tables for Years 3 and 4. However, this school setted Year 5 andYear 6 pupils in English and mathematics. A Year 6 class teacher, also the literacy coordinator,had not taught mathematics for five years, but taught English to both Year 5and Year 6. Correspondingly, the Year 5 class teacher, who had developedmathematics as a teaching preference, taught mathematics to Year 5 and Year 6.Finding 21: Schools used a combination of within class grouping of pupilsby ability, withdrawal of certain pupils for additional support, and mixedability teaching.In all schools the groups set up within a class were informed by prior assessmentcarried out regularly by the schools. In four schools grouping was made morecomplex because of the necessity to mix different year groups within at least some57

classes. In these schools there was some crossover between cohorts in within classgroupings as ability was ‘factored in,’ but sometimes children from the same yeargroup were taught together. School F (group En) had two classes per year group andcreated in each year group one class of above average ability, while the othercontained mainly average ability pupils, plus a minority with special needs.There was little evidence in the data of individual teachers taking their ownindependent approach to pupil grouping in their classes. School policies varied, withsome requiring three ability groups per class, based on the results of formalassessments, and others leaving the decisions to individual class teachers. All schoolsclaimed that ability groupings were flexible. To illustrate this, one teacher said thatfour pupils had moved groups, but the time scale did not allow the research team toexamine in detail how the claimed flexibility actually operated in practice.Withdrawal groups were a feature in all schools to different degrees. This involvedthe identification by the class teacher of a small group of pupils who would work withanother teacher or a classroom assistant on a specific area of the curriculum.5.2.3 Assessment and targetsThis next section considers the area of assessment and target setting. This was an areaof concern to all heads. Typical comments are illustrated by one head teacher whoindicated that clear guidelines for summative assessment were in place and explainedthat:“Assessment informing planning is essential.”(school G, group Ma)By this the head teacher meant that the results of summative assessment were used inallocating pupils to ability groups. She added that target setting for progression wasnot yet established, though they were working on it.Finding 22: Schools varied in the use they made of summative assessments.The issue of assessment and how to use it most effectively to progress pupil learningis probably one of the most difficult aspects of teaching. All teachers are involved inaspects of formative assessment, internal summative assessment and external58

summative assessment. All schools were working on ways in which they coulddevelop systems which were both fair to the pupils and gave reliable information.The difficulties inherent in undertaking this task were illustrated by one head teacherwho insisted that:“Teacher assessment is effective because teachers know the needs of thechildren.”(school H, group Ma)Yet this view sat awkwardly with her next observation that optional nationalcurriculum tests and reading tests informed decisions about where children were bestplaced. Except in two schools, one of which was not following the NLS framework,there was evidence of summative assessments being used for potentially high stakesdecisions about ability groups. One head teacher whose school came closest to theideal of tightly linking formative and/or diagnostic assessment and planning was alsorealistic about its limitations:“Assessment is integrated organically into the review and monitoring system.We do pupil tracking as far as possible, but we can’t keep on top of every child tothe nth degree. We have to do those most in need.”(school C, group Co)Finding 23: Schools differed in their focus on individual as opposed to grouptargets.This finding illustrates the challenge that schools face in developing systems whichbest aid the progress of pupils in the class. Ideally it may be that individual targets arepreferable, but, from the point of view of manageability, group targets may be moreeffective. This finding is reflected in a statement by one mathematics co-ordinatorwho said:“There’s a lot of flexibility (in assessing individual pupils’ progress). We’reconstantly evaluating and moving children …. teachers have become moreflexible and less afraid – targets have become more meaningful.”(school B, group Co)59

The points she was making were that the school had progressed from group toindividual targets; and this enabled teachers to focus more directly, and more flexibly,on individual pupils’ needs.In contrast, other schools were targeting groups of pupils rather than individuals. Forexample there would be a group target for a lesson. This was the case in a schoolwhere the data collector’s notes on lessons included:“Nobody sleeps in this lesson! All children on task. Lots of jokes.”“Well timed lesson in hands of an experienced teacher.”(school B, group Co)Here the focus was clearly on the work of the whole class. This of course was justone lesson and the expectation would be that the best teachers would use a variety ofapproaches depending on the topic being explored and the pupils themselves.The sharpest focus on individual targets was evident in schools where every pupil’stargets in English and mathematics were written prominently in their work books,following discussion with each pupil individually.5.2.5 Intensive phases of preparationFinding 24: All schools saw part of their role in Year 6 as guiding pupilsthrough an intensive phase of preparation for the National Curriculum testsat the end of Key Stage 2.All schools were conscious of the responsibility towards their pupils in order to ensurethat they reached the highest possible level in the national tests. The level ofpreparation inevitably varied to some extent, but a typical response is illustrated by aYear 6 teacher, who told the research team member:“From Christmas, English, maths and science is all we do until May. Year 6 havea test in the hall every Friday, supervised by the head teacher, in similarconditions to SATs.’(school A, group Co)60

In this school, as well as setting the two classes in each year group, with abilitygroups in each set, there was a highly developed system of assessment and targetsetting, with a weekly mental mathematics test informing planning for additionalnumeracy lessons and a weekly creative writing session to practise the kind of writingquestions found in national curriculum tests. In Year 5 two summative assessmentswere designed “to identify children who need a push”. In addition there werewithdrawal groups, after school classes and holiday classes.There was some recognition of the need to maintain a non-threatening environmentwhich encouraged each pupil to do their best. Yet at the same school a Year 6 teacherdescribed the fact that each pupil contributed four to five per cent to the school’sresults as a “real worry”, and here, too, time was taken from other subjects to reviseareas of perceived weakness. Intensive preparation for and practice of nationalcurriculum tests appeared to be seen in all schools as a natural thing to do. There waslittle sense of it being seen as helpful or unhelpful to pupils’ learning. It was simplysomething that had to be done. In at least one school teachers quite openly told pupilsthat after the national tests they would be able to do more interesting things.Certainly, pupils themselves were aware of the high stakes nature of the assessment.Without question national tests dominated classroom teaching of both subjects inthese schools for a large part of Year The balance between whole class teaching and group workFinding 25: Both in English and mathematics, it was clear that school policyon whole class teaching was less explicit than was policy on the balancebetween whole class teaching and other approaches.Teaching organisation styles within the classroom had been an issue which came tothe fore through the work of the NNS and NLS. This means that schools are veryconscious of the need to think carefully about the way in which teachers areencouraged to operate within their classes. One of the central issues relates to wholeclass teaching and in particular whole class interactive teaching where the interactionis both teacher/pupil and pupil/pupil. Some exploration of existing research oninteractive teaching was presented in Chapter 2 above.61

In the present research, different forms of interactive teaching were seen across arange of schools. Most often observes was a version involving mainly interactionbetween teacher and whole class, with occasional pupil-pupil interaction. This wasexpressed as:“Whole class teaching, then children work individually. Occasionally there’spaired work on the carpet but they work in silence at the tables. We want them toconcentrate!”(school F, group En.)In almost all schools teachers claimed to follow an “interactive” approach. Yet theinteraction in some cases was only between teacher and pupils. In some classes pupilswere never observed talking to each other, with or without the teacher’s approval. Inone school the data collector noted that two pupils caught whispering to each otherwere told that this was not acceptable.At the other extreme was the only school in the sample with a regular programme ofpeer tutoring. Here, paired work and collaborative group work were the norm. In theYear 6 mathematics class the data collector noted:“Collaboration in pairs and groups…. question and answer…. well motivatedduring main task.”(school G, group Ma)and in the English lesson:“Turn taking, sharing ideas, supporting each other. All pupils comfortabletalking to the class, reading out or coming up to write on board. Calm in class –on task.”(school G, group Ma)Other schools fell between these two extremes. Historically, for both schools at theextremes, one had been higher in English and the other in mathematics, but no reasonemerged to attribute this to their different teaching approaches.5.2.7 Role of subject co-ordinatorsFinding 26: The role of the subject co-ordinators varied widely across theschools visited. The research showed that subject co-ordinators acted as acurriculum resource, and in some schools they fulfilled an underlyingleadership role model.62

In only one school the literacy and numeracy co-ordinators were unambiguouslyviewed as providing leadership in development of classroom practice. In this school(school C, group Co) the head teacher related one of the co-ordinators’ effectiveleadership directly to the good results in her subject. Moreover, lower performancelevels in the other subject were attributed partly to the lack, until recently, of aneffective co-ordinator. In another school at least one co-ordinator visited classroomsas a “critical friend” and had monthly meetings with teachers. This was considered, byteachers and co-ordinator, as a way of helping boost confidence, but in general regularobservation in classes did not take place. From their own accounts, the pattern inmost other schools was of co-ordinators having responsibility for maintaining anddeveloping resources, providing informal support and advice, as well as making moreformal contributions to training days or identifying training opportunities forcolleagues.Head teachers had mixed views on this, some regretting that the supply budget couldnot stretch to enabling co-ordinators to spend lesson time with colleagues, but at leastone doubting whether the co-ordinators’ management skills were well enoughdeveloped to do this.5.2.8 Special programmes and withdrawal groupsFinding 27: All schools provided additional help for pupils with SEN, and alsofor pupils identified as being near the level 4 borderline.Almost always class teachers welcomed this support. An exception was a school inwhich the Special Educational Needs Co-ordinator (SENCO) withdrew pupils withIndividual Education Plans (IEP) without any discussion with class teachers. Oneteacher described this as not being an effective way of managing pupil development.In other schools help was provided as appropriate, in a variety of ways and withconsultation with the class teacher.Finding 28: All schools were using elements of ELS, ALS, FLS and Springboard.One feature of the importance that schools place on performance in the national testsis the way in which they provide support for those students who are close to reachingthe required standard but need some extra focused help. For this purpose a variety of63

support mechanisms are used. There is no consistent mechanism in use and this is tobe expected since the pupils being supported are individuals with specific needs.Most teachers welcomed the various initiatives. It was not possible to observe themin action and the scope of the project prevented the drawing of any conclusions ontheir effectiveness in raising pupils’ achievements. Two observations from classteachers were nevertheless interesting. Firstly, pupils in Year 4 in one school wereremoved for ALS for 30 minutes on three mornings a week. On their return the classteacher found their behaviour difficult to manage. Secondly, a teacher in anotherschool cited Springboard as particularly successful because it was run by teacherassistants with close links to the class teacher.One school used ALS “as appropriate” and another made use of some ALS materials.Similarly all had booster groups, in two cases taken by the head teacher, with ateacher in a third school noting really good relationships, though, oddly attendancewas a problem. Springboard was an option in mathematics adopted in five schools 13 .5.2.9 Teacher assistants (TAs) and learning support assistants (LSAs)Finding 29: All schools employed TAs and/or LSAs and all found themuseful.The introduction of a variety of classroom assistants has clearly made a hugedifference to the way in which teachers work with their classes. Again there was nocommon way in which they were consistently used but schools tended to allowteachers to decide on the best way of using these assistants in particular classes.One teacher praised the contribution of the school’s teaching assistant to Year 6 work:“We have a full time TA for Year 6…this is invaluable and we use her asappropriate…”(Y6 teacher, school F, group En).It was noted that this school did not mention using TAs in other year groups.13 Time did not permit data collectors to seek information about the quality of collaboration betweenTAs and class teachers.64

A common pattern, noted by a subject co-ordinator’s interview with a class teacher atthe only school with a significant number of refugee children was:“Small groups (are) facilitated by a TA. Where appropriate children arewithdrawn, but we try to incorporate them within a lesson so they can hearlanguage.”(Y3 teacher, school G, group Co, on ALS)At some schools, though, the TA would work with the whole class while the classteacher attended to pupils with SEN.5.2.10 Contacts with parentsFinding 30: Schools’ views on the role of parents as partners in their children’seducation varied.Over the last few years a clear change has developed nationally in classrooms, from aposition where the only extra help available to the teacher was a parent, to a positionwhere there is a range of trained help available. Thus the position of the parent helperhas changed. Nonetheless, the dominant perception in this research was of parentshaving a role to play but that it needed careful management. No head teachers,subject co-ordinators or teachers explicitly saw them as a barrier to children’s learningOn the other hand only one head teacher referred their school enjoying good supportfrom parents (school C, group Co) and only one class teacher mentioned “…(parentsposing) no difficulties.”One class teacher said:“Parents are supportive but can’t help academically.”(Y4, school B, group Co)In this school, homework was seen as a way of involving parents in their children’seducation. This involved setting tasks in which children could reasonably seek theirparents’ support. Across the sample there was some evidence of this occasionallyoccurring in Year 3 and Year 4. By Year 5 and Year 6 the dominant model was torevise or practise work covered in class. While a few teachers mentionedmathematical language as an issue, language did not appear to be seen as a greaterproblem in mathematics than in English.65

5.3 SummaryHead teachers had a clear understanding of the patterns of attainment of the pupils intheir school. Subject co-ordinators varied on this matter. Classroom teachers werevery clear about which pupils were working at what level within their classes. Allexcept one school was following the national frameworks and all used generalistteachers except one for years 5 and 6. All schools employed some kind of abilitygrouping in years 5 and 6. Schools made varied use of summative assessment. In allschools the curriculum in year 6 was “dominated by intensive periods of preparationfor the national tests”.66

Chapter 6 Classroom teaching approaches6.0 Introduction.This chapter covers a range of findings relating to classroom practice. It exploreswhether teaching approaches in Year 6 differ from those in Years 3 –5 and then looksat what the challenges teachers experience in moving Year 6 pupils to level 4.Then consideration is given to effective teaching strategies that may be transferable toother contexts. Thereafter, data on classroom teaching approaches, rather than thedata on school policies that used in chapter 5, is drawn on to re-visit what strategiesteachers employ to address barriers to learning and help pupils to achieve level 4 inEnglish and mathematics in Year 3 – Year 6. Teachers’ strategies for improvingpupils’ achievement are explored. Finally, strategies that teachers adopt to promoteconsistency in the achievements of boys and girls are considered.6.1 Teaching approaches in Year 6 and Years 3 – 5This section explores to what extent teaching approaches in Year 6 may differ. Thegeneral picture was of increasing pressure on Year 5 teachers to ensure their pupilsentered Year 6 performing to the best of their ability, leading to the tendency toprepare intensively for national tests in Year 6 as discussed in chapter 5.Finding 31: Head teachers and teachers exhibited broadly similar views thatYear 6 teaching had rather different characteristics compared with teachingother years in KS2.This finding manifested itself through a range of items of data. One head observed:“Teachers plan as per the NLS except the Year 6 teacher who is flexibleand creative.”(HT school I, group Ma)Only one head teacher claimed that there were no differences in teaching approachesbetween Year 6 and previous years (school H, group Ma). This was the smallestschool visited as part of the case studies. In this school teaching of Year 5 and Year 6was combined due to small class sizes.67

She commented that“It’s difficult to get the balance right between teaching in Year 6 and preparingfor SATs. It wouldn’t be fair not to let the children practice.”(HT, school H, group Ma)There was a clear presence of national test pressure as a factor in Year 6 teaching:“Year 6 teaching and learning is more focussed on pupils achieving level 4.”(HT school A group Co)“Our Year 6 teacher is magnificent…that’s why we get such good results.”(HT school E, group En)The same head teacher observed that:“In Year 6 policy on under-performing pupils becomes more prominent.”(HT school E, group En)and in another school a teacher observed that:“…in Year 6 the focus is on using NNS to fill in gaps in knowledge prior toSATs…”(Y6 teacher, school G, group En)Finding 32: No consistent pattern emerged on differences regarding teachingapproaches between Year 3 – Year 5.The data showed that, in each school, similar teaching approaches tended to be in usein Years 3, 4 and 5. If there were differences in approach between teachers in years 3-5, these were seen as normal, predictable differences between teachers. One headcommented:“Similar (approaches across year groups) but teaching reflects personality andteachers should be encouraged to be individual.”(HT, school H, group Ma)One teacher stated that there was a “massive rise in expectations” in Year 3 comparedwith the final year of KS1 (Y3 teacher, school C, group Co), but another thought thatpupils had reached a plateau in Year 3:68

“We’re noticing a consolidation year, or even going back, in Year 3. Perhapsthey’ve been pushed so much in Year 2 they slow down.”(Y3 teacher, school E, group En)Finding 33: Year 6 teachers did not appear to recognise specific challenges inmoving pupils to level 4 that did not also apply to raising the achievements ofpupils in Years 3 – 5.Certainly, Year 6 teachers were under no illusions about the pressure to maximise thenumber of pupils achieving level 4. Moreover, they were well aware of work carriedout in previous years and saw their task as building on this, not as introducing newchallenges and new teaching approaches. Typical was the following explanation:“We have moved beyond drawing up (a policy)…our policy is now brokendown to show each teacher which part of the strategy they are responsible for...it’s part of the whole school approach to be more focussed…and part of theSDP…the focus is on children’s needs…”(HT, school C, group Co)All schools except one (school H, group Ma) mentioned teaching becoming moreformal in Year 6. More cases of structured teaching with focus on objectives occurredwith older groups. In one school this was reflected in the comment:“In Years 3 and 5 the teachers are confident in allowing pupil dialogue. Notso much in year 4 – that’s the teacher’s style. In year 6 (things are lesspractical due to SATs”(HT, school A, group Co)6.2 Transferring teaching approachesChildren’s language development does not depend only on the quality of teaching inEnglish lessons. Nor does their mathematical knowledge and understanding dependonly on their school work in mathematics.69

6.2.1 Cross-curricular linksThe strong subject focus observed in mathematics and English teaching does notprevent cross-curricular links, but there was a sense that such links had to bestrategically planned into the teaching approach. This happened rarely.Finding 34: There was a low incidence in the data of cross-curricular linkshaving much priority.One head teacher explained that with respect to English:“Sets previously made cross-curricular work more difficult to plan for becauselearning groups change for each subject. We don’t currently use crosscurricularthemes…but we now have a school focus on cross-curricularliteracy links...”(HT, school B, group Co)In the same school (B) the head teacher also explained that with regard tomathematics, cross-curricular work had yet to be planned and provided.Finding 35: There was some evidence in the data that where cross-curricularwork was taking place, it occurred more in English than in mathematics.This was the case for all schools making cross-curricular links. The data suggest thatEnglish objectives and teaching approaches were seen as more easily incorporatedinto and utilised by foundation subjects in particular. The two other core subjects(science and mathematics) were seen as posing more of a challenge in this regard.However, some pioneering work was discovered in one school which was breakingthrough barriers to cross-curricular work in foundation and core subjects.“Our pilot scheme in MADD (music, art, drama and dance) is addressinglearning transfer in English. Project work linking ICT and English is moredeveloped than in maths. There is incidental work in science (to link withmaths) but nothing is planned as such.”(HT school H, group Ma)70

At another school, learning transfer was being developed slightly differently. Thehead teacher had explicitly asked teachers to devise opportunities for learning transferin their plans. Thus, in mathematics opportunities were:“searched for and taken up on a regular and frequent basis, for example Romannumerals from a history project.”(HT school E, group En)He believed that there were fewer opportunities in mathematics than in English due tothe “black and white” nature of the former.Finding 36: No evidence was found in lesson observations or gathered fromteacher interviews that suggested cross-curricular issues were prominent.All the lesson observations collected and all the interviews held with teachersindicated that teaching of English and mathematics was being conducted with literacyand numeracy objectives very clearly in mind. No examples were seen of a lessonwith a cross-curricular theme. Some non fiction resources for literacy were clearlyapplicable to other subject areas, for example in school G (group Ma, a year 6 literacylesson was observed in which the non-fiction text ‘A Doctor’s Life’ was used tostimulate pupils’ own writing. The lesson’s objectives were to improve readingfluency, show examples of particular phonemes and to provide an example of thegenre of writing (diary entry) that the pupils themselves were then require to produce.6.2.2 Links with parents and local communityFinding 37: Data showed very little evidence of authentic links withhome/parents and with the local community.An example of authentic links being made only came up in one school (school D,group En). This school had worked out a very robust home-school liaison policy.Homework planning formed one aspect of this. Workshops were held regularly forparents to attend in advance of topics being set for homework. School policy acrossall subjects, which the head teacher monitored closely in conjunction with coordinators,was that homework was never to be used for ‘finishing off class-work’.Instead, homework was notified to parents and pupils well in advance, and sent to71

parents at the start of each half of term, with the intention that it should if at allpossible be done with parents and pupils as a joint enterprise. The school had madeoutreach to parents a school priority over the past couple of years, and the homeschoolliaison policy, including this homework arrangement, was a product of thisLEA-supported initiative.In the remaining schools, various homework policies existed:“15 minutes reading a day, 15 minutes spelling a week, parents expected toensure this is kept to but not exceeded and feed back to school if anyproblems.”(literacy co-ordinator, school B, group En)“Differentiated homework every week for English and mathematics. Parentscan collaborate, but this is not very effective for level 4 in numeracy”(numeracy co-ordinator, School I, group Ma)6.2.3 Encouraging a cooperative environment and self regulationCollaboration between pupils, where it was seen in use as a teaching technique,involved pupils of similar ability in pairs. Mixed-sex pairings occurred as often assingle-sex pairings. Where lessons used collaboration between pupils, it was wellreceivedby the pupils involved.Finding 38: Collaborative working was seen in most schools. It was not usedextensively, however. Usually it was in the context of group work phases ofliteracy and numeracy lessons.Evidence to support this finding was drawn from lesson observations. Datacollectors’field notes contained such information as:“Collaboration in pairs and groups, Q and A. Well motivated during maintask.”(lesson observation, Y6, school G, group Ma)72

“Pacy start, lively presentation of topic, 15 mins reading together, thenworking with partners to find complex sentences in text (3 minutes only).”(lesson observation, Y5, school C, group En)In another school, where collaboration was not encouraged, the data-collector noted:“Formal lesson. Whole class-teacher reading aloud from whiteboard. Then Qand A (by now 45 mins) Then individual worksheet. No plenary.”(lesson observation Y3, school H, group Ma)Co-operation with others implies awareness of others, which in turn implies the needfor self regulation. Collaboration with other pupils also creates opportunities forlearning transfer by enabling pupils to identify and share applications of what theyhave learnt. Only one school made a point of encouraging collaboration betweenpupils as a matter of policy (school D) where collaboration was not subject specific; ittook place across the curriculum.In another school, where the school policy did not explicitly encourage or discouragepupil-pupil collaboration, the lesson observation notes recorded no instances of itoccurring. Typical of the notes for lessons observed in that school is the following:“Excellent behaviour expected and achieved; children quiet, hard-working;teacher on the ball…”(Lesson observation, Y4, school E, group En)The other schools ranged in between these extremes: collaborative work took place,but not systematically. In six schools overall (i.e. including the school wherecollaboration was a matter of policy), pupils spoke of working in pairs, including Year3 pupils in one school who had ‘talking partners’ and were sometimes in ‘workingpairs.’73

6.2.4 Links between learning tasks and real life experiencesFinding 39: Teachers’ weekly plans in most schools recognised the importanceof linking curriculum content with real life experience, but in observations oflessons there was little evidence of this occurring.The NNS/NLS Frameworks encourage teachers to base their teaching objectives inreal life (or ‘authentic’) contexts. This is intended to improve pupils’ understandingof the relevance of their learning. The data suggested that at times it could be difficultfor teachers to achieve this. The only clear evidence of any authenticity in tasks wasin the homework set in school D (where home-school liaison was strong).Elsewhere, a data collector recorded the following exchange in an English lesson:Teacher: What am I looking for when I mark this story?Pupils: Punctuation, hand writing.Teacher: What important things will I be looking for?Pupils: Past tense, paragraph openings, similes, (i.e. pupils give grammaticalterms as examples).Teacher: I will be looking for a complete story; what is important?Pupils: An exciting beginning (i.e. pupil’s sense and respond to teacher’s cueabout story structure).(Y5, school F, group En):This interaction is interesting because it reveals the children’s initial confidence thatthey thought they knew what was expected, even though it turned out that they did notgive the answers the teacher was looking for at first. Also, they showed flexibility inbeing able to switch to a different agenda when offered a cue by the teacher.However, during this lesson, the real life relevance of observing any of theconventions behind these answers was not underlined to pupils.6.3 Teachers’ strategies in addressing barriers to pupils achieving level 4This section is concerned with a range of classroom teaching approaches andstrategies that may help to increase the proportion of pupils achieving level 4 in one orboth subjects. Some approaches considered by the schools will be mentioned. These74

are in no particular order as the research team was unable to gather data in a form thatlent significance to these approaches.6.3.1 Interactive white-boardsFinding 40: Use of IT in lessons, especially interactive whiteboards, is not usedto its full potential, especially in literacy teaching.The schools in the sample varied in their resourcing of IT. Three schools had nointeractive whiteboards, for example, the remaining six had some. Of these, one ortwo teachers in each school were observed using them interactively, the others usedthem either as a whiteboard with a ‘magic pen’ or not at all. One Year 3 child in afocus group explained:“Our teacher is still learning to use it.”(school E, group En)When teachers were comfortable using it, the interactive white-board was a helpfulresource and in mathematics it enabled teachers to present concepts in a novel waythat captured pupils’ attention. Numbers were represented in a variety of ways andalso operations were be shown dynamically. It helped teachers to present and modelwork and to record pupils’ responses.With regard to IT resources more generally the picture was patchy. Certainly pupilsresponded well to all IT resources, one referring to use of computers (which theschool had received under the in Excellence in the City initiative) as “it’s the best!”However, even in the school with the most extensive IT resources (school E), whereYear 6 pupils used laptops in the classroom, take-up was uneven. Their Year 3 pupilssaid they only went to the computer suite once a week. In another school a focusgroup pupil claimed that individual pupil time at the computers was used as a reward.It did not seem that the technology was integrated into every day classroom teachingin a way that might enable it to contribute to raising standards in both English andmathematics.75

6.3.2 Integration of social and educational skills.While learning transfer and full utilisation of ICT’s potential may be slow to developin schools, nationally teachers have, for some time, been more adept at harnessinglearning situations as means of developing their pupils’ social skills.Finding 41: In many classes teachers displayed skilful methods of integratingeducational objectives with social skills.Evidence from lesson observations contained frequent instances of pupilsexperiencing opportunities to enrich their social skills. Although these occurrencestook place more often in literacy lessons, they did occur in numeracy lessons as well.In a Year 3 numeracy lesson, a data collector recorded as social skills:“Sharing with neighbours on carpet; turn taking expected. Generally, pupils goodat listening. Many pupils willing to try to help others. Clear boundariesestablished with quiet reminders.”and, in the same lesson, she recorded as educational skills:“speaking and listening; counting; number patterns; recognition of shapes andtheir properties; cutting; watching; sorting; sticking; reading; deduction; problemsolving.”(Y3, school A, group En)Moreover, even in a school where little or no interaction was observed betweenpupils, social skills were being developed when the teacher was working with thewhole class. These tended to be prominent in literacy lessons when the teacher wasemploying techniques of exposition, question-and-answer, seeking pupils’ opinions,encouraging them to formulate hypotheses and air their own ideas. For example, thefollowing notes were taken in school F (group En):“Pupils listened attentively, engrossed in listening to each other when takingturns…” (Y3 literacy lesson)“Pupils keen to give their opinions, wanting to respond each others’ ideas …”(Y4 literacy lesson)76

Finding 42: There was no consistent evidence of differences between Englishand mathematics in the opportunities that teachers created for pupils topractice social skills.The previous finding (41) giving prominence to social skills being integrated inliteracy, numeracy lessons seemed not to have as many opportunities. The datashowed that where a class teacher chose to undertake such integration, then they coulddo so in both subjects. As the same teacher taught both subjects, except in one school(school F) with specialists in Year 5 and Year 6, this finding was perhaps predictable.Core teaching skills are common to all subjects.Finding 43: No evidence was found that teachers found it easier todifferentiate between pupils’ needs, or to scaffold tasks, in English rather thanmathematics.Hall and Harding (2003) noted that effective teachers scaffolded 14 tasks in ways thatfacilitated learning without reducing the need for pupils themselves to try. Lessonobservation provided plenty of evidence of this, for example:“Teacher scaffolded pupils’ thinking to help them reach correct answer.”(Y6 literacy lesson observation, about those pupils whose work presentedproblems, school D,)“Need for support recognised – teacher scaffolded thinking effectively,building on previous knowledge and experiences. Prompts related tochildren’s lives.”(Y3, school E, group En)“Differentiated questioning by teacher, paired/group work gives pupils a firstport of call for support”(Y4 school G)14 Scaffolding is a teaching technique in which pupils are given initially a high degree of teachersupport in accomplishing a task. The amount of support diminishes as pupils become more skilled atthe task.77

6.3.3 Differentiation and support for pupils facing difficulties with workFinding 44: Many teachers were observed in lessons applying differentiatedteaching according to pupils’ difficulties and needs.Support for pupils whose achievement was below expectations was often provided inthe form of teaching assistants. In schools where there was not a TA for each yeargroup, then it appeared to be more reserved for Year 6 (e.g. school F, and also seeearlier finding (31)on Year 6). Possibly a more intensive analysis of differencesbetween lessons in the two subjects might have revealed subtle differences. However,teacher interviews and lesson observations showed a strong adherence to the NLS andNNS approaches was being maintained in most schools, almost all of the time.6.3.4 Teacher assistants and special programmesFinding 45: While the use of intervention programmes was occurringthroughout the sample, head teachers and co-ordinators were more aware oftheir deployment and purposes than were teachers.It was noted in chapter 5 that teachers welcomed support form TAs and had generallypositive attitudes to special programmes such as Springboard, ELS, ALS and FLShowever, visits to schools did not coincide with any of these programmes in action.When interviewed, most teachers provided little information on how pupils werehelped by these programmes. Interviews with heads and subject co-ordinators werethe sources of information that these programmes were in use in the school, with coordinatorsbeing most aware of exactly which programmes were in use with whichclasses. Teachers themselves did not tend to know what went on in theseprogrammes. Pupils were selected for special programmes and for differentiatedsupport within the classroom on the basis of formal and informal assessment. Plentyof evidence of TAs providing support in a variety of ways was observed.78

6.3.5 Feedback from teachersFinding 46: Feedback from teachers during lessons was generally clear,consistent and encouraging.Pupils’ motivation to learn can be greatly affected by the quality of the feedback theyreceive in lessons. This was noted in chapter 2. The general picture from the datacollectors’ records was of clear and consistent feedback from teachers, as in this Year4 English lesson:“On-going monitoring and feedback. Praise for good work and effort. Pupilscorrected immediately – supported to try again. Vocabulary picked up anddemonstrated correctly. Pupils comfortable having a go and trying again.”(school G, group Ma)Information from pupil focus groups endorsed the positive effect on their attitudes tolearning of the use of by their teachers of clear feedback in both subjects.Finding 47: Feedback from teachers to pupils about test performances thatwere below expectations was often upsetting for the pupils concernedPupils were less happy about receiving adverse comments about their performanceson class tests and assessments. In school, when asked how their teacher would react ifthey did badly on a test, one pupil said:“Various things – ‘…not good enough, don’t worry, you’ll get another chance,you’ll do the test again and get it right…”(Y3 focus group, school C, group Co)In the same school, a Year 5 pupil thought the response would be:“ ‘Try, try again and you’ll get it right’ ”. He added, “My teacher knows I’m nota bright lad…I’m disappointed.”Also in school C, pupils in the Year 6 focus groups recalled experiencing a range offeedback from being “…kept in to do the test again – that’s if the teacher knows you79

haven’t tried..” to being told “…’you’ve not tried hard…next week try harder…it’snothing to cry about…improve each week- try to get one point more.’”6.3.6 The classroom environmentFinding 48: Classroom environments placed a heavy emphasis on supportinglearning.The learning environment can also influence pupils’ motivation and sharpen theirinterest in a subject. Furthermore, displays of pupils’ work may convey messagesabout the status ascribed by teachers to that work. In this research, some classroomshad little, if any, work by pupils on display. In contrast, all classrooms contained atleast some commercially-produced posters designed to assist pupils’ learning inEnglish and mathematics. Data collectors frequently noted teachers referring to theseduring lessons.In one very structured Year 4 class, prompts for numeracy work were displayed, andan English board contained a list of nouns. No work by pupils was displayed. Thiswas exceptional and another class in the same school was described as having a livelyenvironment with informative displays to assist numeracy work.Some classrooms had English and mathematics corners that pupils could, and did, useas a resource when working on tasks set by the teacher. With few exceptions,teachers felt that resources were adequate in both subjects.6.4 Strategies teachers used to promote consistency in achievement of boysand girls.As explained in chapter 1, differences between boys and girls achieving level 4 atnational level obscure the fact that at school level differences may be very smallindeed. Nevertheless the research team sought information from staff and pupilsabout teaching approaches that might be helpful to boys and/or girls.80

6.4.1 Teachers’ perceptions of boys’ and girls’ interests and/or difficultiesSchools visited in this research were generally aware of differences between boys andgirls in terms of aptitudes or interests.Finding 49: Differences in attainment between boys and girls were notidentified as particular problems in all schools. Three of the nine schools DIDexpress such concerns, and in these the concern was about boys’ lowachievement in literacy.Gender was seldom identified as an issue in relation to mathematics. This was thecase for evidence from head teachers, co-ordinators, teachers and pupils.The head teacher of one school with historically better results in English than inmathematics explained:“We’ve looked very closely at gender. It depends on the cohort, but where theyear group has more boys than girls English is poorer. It’s a culture thing –attitude to learning – they want to kick a ball around.”(head teacher, school F, group En)Another head teacher was concerned about:“…underachieving black African boys. They’ve got low expectations. The(primary) school should be trying to stave off the alienation that happens in thesecondary school, but with no male black African role model this is hard.”(head teacher, school I, group Ma)These statements typify the general pattern from staff in the six of the nine schoolsthat signalled a concern about gender.Lesson observations showed more examples of teachers addressing boys’ behaviourthan girls’ and these occurred in each of the nine schools. Yet the general picture wasof well-managed classes with well-behaved pupils. After noting that a Year 6 teacherhad highlighted boys’ misbehaviour on four occasions for very minor misdeeds, a datacollector wrote:81

“Both boys and girls aware that they have to work – no room for deviation!”(Y6, school A, group Co)In a different school another data collector was impressed by a teacher’s responses toboys’ and girls’ social interaction and behaviour:“No gender differences. Clear boundaries for all. Lots of discussion on how tolive and work together. Understanding shown of all pupils’ needs.”(Y5, school F, group En)6.4.2 Pupils’ and teachers’ views about boys’ and girls’ learningFinding 50: Pupils appeared to learn at least as well if not better in mixed-sexgroupings than in single-sex settings.In almost all focus groups pupils expressed no problem with being allocated to mixedsex tables at the teacher’s discretion. Inevitably, there were some who said theywould prefer single sex tables, but these were a minority. The majority were happy totrust their teacher to allocate them in ways that would help their learning. Interestingresponses from a Year 6 pupil focus group were:“Mixed groups help stop sexism.”“Boys and girls are equal.”“We wouldn’t learn so well if we sat with our friends – talking!”(Y6 pupils, school B, group Co)A large majority of teachers thought there was no distinction between boys’ and girls’responses to the curriculum. In mathematics:“All pupils enjoy practical work.”(Y4 teacher, school H, group Ma)And in English:“Choice of reading texts is not gender specific; there are things all children willenjoy. No gender differences in pupils’ general responses.”(Y6 teacher, school H, group Ma)82

In one of the very few instances of single sex teaching, one school had experimentedduring a holiday pre-national curriculum extra session. The Year 6 teacher reported:“Tried separate rooms at Easter school, but the effect was to make boys and girlsdocile and unsure.”(Y6 teacher, school G, group Ma)There were very few examples of pupils or teachers explicitly drawing attention togender issues. For example, in the following exchange, a Year 4 girl challenged herteacher:Teacher: The slug breathes through a hole in the side of his head.Pupil: Why ‘his’?Teacher: Fair point! I’ll change that to ‘its’; we’ll make sure boys and girls aretreated equally.(Y3 lesson, school C, group Co)There was a suggestion in one school that boys responded better to a ‘reward’ activitysuch as computer time, while girls preferred points or awards. On the other hand,both responded to praise and positive comments on their work.6.4.3 ResourcesFinding 51: There were issues about matching resources to boys’ and girls’different interests.In relation to resources, three schools recognised gender as more of an issue inEnglish than in mathematics. Efforts were made to seek out “boy friendly” texts andcurriculum examples. A Year 4 teacher explained:“As a school we know girls perform better in writing than boys. When I selecttexts I try to select ones that appeal to boys. Girls are more easily involved in anystory.”(literacy co-ordinator, school E, group En)It was not clear whether this was intended to correct a perceived bias against boys orintended as a form of positive discrimination to engage boys’ interest. There seemed83

to be some assumptions in which non-fiction texts were perceived as “boy friendly”.Yet in one school all Year 5 pupils related well to a text about a family and in Year 6both boys and girls were interested in a non-fiction text. In another school, when agirl said in a focus group that she thought English materials were better for girls, aboy protested that he enjoyed poems.A Year 3 teacher reported that when pupils were asked to choose a book, boys would“definitely” choose non-fiction. Yet when this teacher had chosen a non-fiction bookwith boys in mind, everyone had loved it. Views of other teachers lend support to theexperience that given the right circumstances and opportunity, both boys and girls canrespond positively to the same books more, perhaps, than was anticipated:“We aim for a range of stories and non-fiction attractive to all – shorter but goodquality pieces of writing. Boys and girls respond to good quality materials.”(literacy co-ordinator, school C, group Co)The question of selecting books according to teachers’ perceptions of boys’ and girls’different interests did recur as a theme of discussion in interviews with staff. Two ofthe three schools trying to provide “boy friendly” materials in English had historicallyhigher attainments in mathematics. One of these schools had adopted packs designedby the EAZ that were perceived as more suitable for Year 6 boys. The Year 6 teacherexplained that the LEA had focussed on raising achievement on boys’ writing.However, both the head teacher and at least one class teacher were concerned thatthey might have moved too far in attempting to redress the balance because the 2004English results for boys were so much better than those for girls.In another school a Year 5 teacher thought that some work sheets were biased towardsgirls and planned to redress this. Yet in the lesson observed, boys seemed to acceptthe work sheets comfortably. The overall impression gained was that all schools wereaware of the national concern about boys’ lower achievement in literacy. Someschools identified with these concerns and were attempting to deal with it, but morewere reasonably clear that good resources would help to defuse if not actually solvesuch problems.84

6.5 SummaryYear 6 was generally considered to contain different pressures to those experienced inYears 3 to 5. Cross-curricular links did not appear to be a strong feature of the schoolsvisited. There was some evidence of collaborative work between pupils but this wasnot extensive. ICT use varied considerably. Much differentiation was evident in allschools where there was a strong emphasis on attempting to meet pupil need.Classroom environments were generally very supportive towards learning.Differences between the achievement of boys and girls were of some but not greatconcern in the schools visited.85

Chapter 7 Conclusion and implications7.0 IntroductionThe chapter will consider four important areas which have arisen from the study:• the issue of consistency at school level;• the nature of the curriculum;• the impact of school policies; and• the effect of specific teaching practices.In each case there will be an inevitable element of selectivity in discussing these areas– using only those aspects which the data suggests needs further thought. The studyproduced many findings which covered a very wide range of issues. This chapterattempts to summarise, conclude and discuss these in more manageable terms.7.1 The issue of consistency at school levelWhen starting this study it was emphasised that each year a large number of pupilsachieved level 4 in mathematics at KS2 yet gained only a level 3 in English. A similarpicture existed the opposite way round – level 4 in English but level 3 in mathematics.This information was gleaned from aggregated pupil data across England. Howeverthe purpose of the project was to consider the issues related to performance at schoollevel. The first task was therefore to investigate the idea of consistency at schoollevel. In choosing schools it was decided to investigate average differences betweenthe percentage of pupils who achieved level 4 in mathematics and level 3 in English,and vice versa. Schools were identified which had an average performance differenceof 10% between the two subjects, which in a 30 pupil cohort represented about 3pupils. It was acknowledged that averages could mask wide discrepancies over thethree year period. However, the specific data were explored in order to try andeliminate very wide year on year discrepancies. However, this does bring intoquestion the issue of consistency since it does not follow that consistency at anaggregated pupil level is mirrored by a year on year consistency at school level.Therefore, in a second table the issue of consistency was explored in a different wayby looking at 10% differences over Years 1, 2 and 3. This showed that, at schoollevel, consistency over even a 3 year period was not something that is immediatelyevident. In some ways this is not unexpected as it would be expected that a86

“regression to the mean” – i.e. any “inbuilt” errors in measuring will balance out overa periodTable 7.1 Cumulative discrepancy scores over three yearsSummary Data 2002-200420042004 and20032004, 2003and 20021. % of schools with a ≥10%difference in favour of Mathematics(Initial trawl) 9.2 2.5 0.72. % of schools with a ≥10%difference in favour of Mathematics(second trawl) 6.8 1 0.53. % of schools with a ≥10%difference in favour of Mathematics(regional trawl) 6.7 1 0.24. % of schools with a ≥10%difference in favour of English(initial trawl) 16.7 3.5 0.65. % of schools with a ≥10%difference in favour of English(second Trawl) 23.8 8.6 0.86. % of schools with a ≥10%difference in favour of English(regional trawl) 26.4 8.1 0.2Notes:First trawl n=682second trawl n=395regional trawl n=1151This table highlights that for the schools from which the long list was created i.e.combining the schools from the initial and second trawl (1 and 2 for mathematicssuperior and 4 and 5 for English superior):(a) in 2004, in 208 schools (19.3% of schools in trawls 1 and 2 combined) gainedmore than the criterion percentage of pupils achieving level 4 in English but not inmathematics. When data were added from 2003, the number of schools droppedto 58 (5.3% of schools in trawls 1 and 2 combined); when 2002 was included thenumber of schools dropped further to 7 (0.6% of schools in trawls 1 and 2combined).(b) in 2004, in 90 schools (8.3% of schools in trawls 1 and 2 combined) gained morethan the criterion percentage of pupils achieving level 4 in mathematics but not inEnglish. When data from 2003 were added, the number of schools dropped to 21(1.9% of schools in trawls 1 and 2 combined); and when 2002 was included, the87

number of schools dropped further to 7 (0.6% of schools in trawls 1 and 2combined).This suggests that school level consistency is not a valid way of proceeding with thisanalysis. It is possible that teachers used the same teaching approaches year on yearand gained a different pattern of results. This does not negate the value of exploringthe way in which schools work with their “border line” pupils but, it does suggest thatschool-level consistency is difficult to investigate. Thus in the next sections findingsconcerning school-based issues related to performance are considered and tentativesuggestions made.7.2 The nature of the curriculum7.2.1. Perceived areas of difficultyFindings showed that teachers are aware of areas in each subject that they, and pupils,find difficult. However, with only a few exceptions these appeared unrelated neitherto the teachers’ subject knowledge nor to their pedagogical subject knowledge. Alsoit was evident that, in many cases, the areas identified seem too widely defined to bevery useful. Two suggestions arise from these findings:Suggestion 1In mathematics, teachers would benefit from being helped to be more precise aboutidentifying different aspects of problem solving and to build up a portfolio of the kinds ofactivities that would help pupils develop problem solving skills in a variety of contexts.These should be based on the difficulties that pupils have and expectations of the curricularknowledge they should possess at different stages.Suggestion 2In English, teachers would benefit from being helped to be more precise about identifyingdifferent aspects of writing and to build up a portfolio of the kinds of activities that wouldhelp pupils develop their writing skills in a variety of contexts. These should be based onthe difficulties that pupils have and curricular expectations of them at different stages.88

7.3 The impact of school policies7.3.1 Patterns of achievementThe research findings identified an awareness of patterns of achievement – especiallyby Year 6 teachers and heads. Heads were very clear about overall school patternsand trends. Year 6 teachers were able to say, immediately, how many of their pupilswere firm level 4, potential level 4 or unlikely to reach level 4. However this focus ona broad concept of “levelness”, whilst understandable, is also not always helpful toteacher or pupil. In order to address pupil difficulties and plan for future developmentan interpretation of “levelness” needs to be made for each child and there was littleevidence of this kind of in-depth analysis by the schools. The problems associatedwith a “level focus” were illustrated by a very small scale study by Watson (2002),where she showed how booster classes temporarily raised pupils to Mathematics level4 but that this was not sustained over a period of 6 months to a year. The suggestionwas that the level focus was actually masking the real conceptual difficulties that thepupils experienced and thus apparent progress was short-lived.Suggestion 3The concept of ‘level’ needs to be unpacked in teachers’ professional toolkits.Teachers need guidance in developing an understanding of cognitive difficulties thatprevent pupils reaching particular levels and the kinds of activities that may helppupils overcome these possible cognitive obstacles.7.3.2 The role of subject co-ordinatorsWith few exceptions, class teachers, involved in the research, valued support fromsubject co-ordinators, however the findings did not suggest that they were seen ascentral to raising standards. They tended to be valued as a source of advice oncurriculum resources rather than as role models in teaching their subjects or, forsubject co-ordinators to act as role models, their colleagues would need to observethem teaching, and they would need to observe their colleagues teaching. This wasunmanageable in most schools either because of financial considerations or by thehead teacher’s doubts about their co-ordinators’ interpersonal management skills. Ifsubject co-ordinators are to play a central role in raising standards they need to beregarded as members of the senior management team. Also, as strategic subject89

leaders, they need to be able to analyse, interpret and plan ahead, systematically, onthe basis of national and school performance data. There is potential for subject coordinatorsto play a central role in raising schools’ standards but to be effective in thisthey require certain subject and personnel management skills.Suggestion 4Linked with Suggestion 2 subject co-ordinators need to possess skills to support otherteachers to identify specific subject difficulties which pupils experience, and also to beable to extend and challenge able pupils. Furthermore, it would seem useful if coordinatorswere able to analyse KS1 results, in depth, so that specific cognitivedifficulties could be identified for specific pupils. In this way all evidence is beingused in a formative way in order to identify and address specific difficulties. Subjectco-ordinators often possessed what may be an under-valued skill – that of being ableto sense colleagues’ subject knowledge and subject pedagogy confidence levels.Again, their roles could be enhanced to develop these further.7.3.3 Intervention programmesFindings showed schools that were using intervention programmes but, did not knowwhether these were having a substantial influence on the quality of regular teaching inclassrooms. There was also a lack of evidence that learning gains, while attendingspecial programmes, were being systematically reinforced in the regular classroom.The impacts of a range of intervention programmes requires further exploration inlarger samples and in a more in depth longitudinal study. The crucial point is that theway intervention programmes are used is as important as the fact that they are inexistence.Suggestion 5If the school co-ordinator has identified specific needs for pupils as a result, forexample, of KS1 tests then the intervention needs to be in Year 3 not left until Year5/6. This requires what might be termed “best moment” intervention. Further, theintervention needs to be managed in such a way that pupils involved are notcontinually catching up on new material learnt by the rest of the class.90

7.3.4 Use of teaching assistants (TAs)Pupils were selected for special programmes and for differentiated support within theclassroom on the basis of formal and informal assessment. Evidence was observed ofTAs providing support in a variety of ways. While identifying low achievers onassessment criteria is relatively straightforward, identifying the learning or theconsolidation that is needed in order to make progress in the future is much morecomplex. It may be the case that progress towards level 4 in English or inmathematics depends, at least for some pupils, on accurate assessment of gaps inknowledge, skills and understanding. Unless attention is paid to these, programs suchas ALS, ELS or FLS may be building on an insecure foundation. Pupils can behelped to reach level 4 by effective, well focussed, well differentiated teaching that isreinforced in numerous “authentic” contexts at school and at home. Examples wereseen of TAs supporting such teaching in English and in mathematics. Thus clear andspecific use of TAs seemed to be important. In the interests of equity it seemed fromthe evidence that TA time was allocated as equally as possible across classes. Maybeequity here needs to be interpreted in terms of meeting individual pupil needs notproviding global coverage. This is a feasible scenario because of the relatively smallnumber of pupils, at school level, who fall into the particular categories of concern.Suggestion 6Schools need to have systems in place for the clear identification of the conceptualdifficulties which certain individual pupils experience. This needs to be followed byclear “best moment intervention” plans for the use of an integrated programme toaddress the need, and possibly delivered by a well trained TA.7.3.5 Assessment and target settingAt school level, data from summative assessment is inherent in effective planning andmanagement. At class level, data from continual formative assessment is equallyimportant. Yet the need for assessment is independent of the need for abilitygrouping. A mechanism is required that will enable summative assessments to beused formatively, particularly at the start of each Key Stage, in order that appropriateintervention can be put in place.91

Targets are a factor, in the tendency in Year 6, to focus teaching on the requirementsof the National Curriculum Tests. This appears to be something that both teachersand pupils understand and regard as a fact of life. It is likely to have contributed tothe increase in pupils achieving level 4 since the introduction of national testing.Whether it leads to sustainable learning is another matter, which should be a priorityfor further research. Similarly, the practice observed in some schools of whole classteaching with follow-up tasks carried out individually and in silence may wellcontribute to some pupils achieving level 4. But clearly with such a small sample noevidence is conclusive. Whether it is conducive to pupils’ retaining what they havelearnt, let alone progressing to higher levels, requires further investigation. The mostimportant issue here was the way some schools tried to use assessment to makespecific judgements about what pupils needed to do next and used this to setappropriate targets. This is based on the assessment for learning ideas whereassessment is a clear part of the planning process.Suggestion 7All teachers need continued assistance in making sense of a range of assessmentsfor individual pupils and understanding how these assessments can be used toindicate ways forward for these pupils.Suggestion 8There needs to be a detailed, longitudinal study on the long term effects of thevarious assessment strategies being used. At present the focus seems to be on shortterm gain. The long term potential gains need to be investigated.7.4 The effect of specific teaching practicesInevitably the strategies used from school to school varied and it has not beenpossible, within the remits of this research, to identify specific strategies “whichwork” in order to move pupils from level 3 to level 4 as teachers in other schoolscould be using the same strategies year-on-year with not always the same profile ofoutcomes. It was quite clear however that, compared to other year groups, there weredifferent strategies being used in Year 6. These tended to be:92

• more formal teaching style;• teaching by an experienced teacher; and• strong focus on the requirements of the National Curriculum Tests.Of the strategies observed the following were important in the creation of a positivelearning environment:• use of interactive white boards;• employment of varied teaching methods for various pupils, i.e. pupil-focusedmethods;• carefully planned environments for working in mathematics and English; and• use of varied resources.Suggestion 9In-service training opportunities should continue to provide teachers with a rangeof strategies for working with pupils and to keep them up-to-date with possiblenew ideas. It is having the range of ideas that seems to be important rather thanexpertise in just one method.7.5 SummaryThe notion of consistency is not possible to demonstrate at school level. The evidenceshows that virtually no schools demonstrated a consistently variedmathematics/English performance over a period of 3 years (as shown in table 7.1).However, the present research provided the opportunity of highlighting particularpractice, which other schools may be able to consider in their own circumstances, aswell as the repertoire of methods that teachers develop with experienceIssues which were important for schools to consider included:• The use of specialist teachers;• Re-assessing the role of the subject co-ordinator so that, in particular, they areable to be more precise in identifying specific learning problems for specificpupils; and93

• Considering the nature of intervention programmes and the role of TAs indelivering these. Consideration should involve timing and personnel.Teachers used a variety of strategies which were dependent on their own expertise,the material being taught and the class to whom it was being taught. There was noclear evidence of specific strategies, which moved pupils from level 3 to level 4, sincethe specific need of each pupil in this position needs to be taken into account. One ofthe most important issues which was observed in the research was the way in whichthe schools, usually through clear leadership from the head, were pro-active inidentifying problems and working towards ways of addressing these problems.For example, schools were observed where mathematics (because of past national testresults) was perceived to be an area for development. This resulted in a clear plan toenhance the quality of the learning experience of the pupils in mathematics.However, the same impetus was not evident in English. Thus whilst attainment inmathematics improved, that in English reached a temporary plateau. In so doing, theschool had become a problem-identifying and problem-solving environment and wastrying to address one problem at a time. A climate was created in whichdifficulties/problems were addressed. The key seemed to be the creation/developmentof a team culture where staff work together to understand problems and seek positiveways forward.94

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Appendix 1Research Questions101

Aims and research questionsThe main aims of the research as specified by the research brief are:1. to identify effective teaching practices which work well in helping pupils toachieve level 4 in both subjects;2. to identify the main areas of weakness in English and mathematics pupiloutcomes in Key Stage 2;3. to identify the main areas of weakness in English and mathematics by genderof pupils;4. to conduct a map of patterns in the groups of pupils failing to achieve level 4in English and mathematics, while achieving level 4 in the other.These four aims were expanded, again in the research brief, into specific researchquestions:a. Are teachers aware of patterns of achievement of pupils reaching level4 in one subject but not in the other? If so, how do they address thesein their teaching?b. In which areas of English and mathematics in years 3, 4, 5 and 6 dopupils find it difficult to achieve level 4?c. What challenges do teachers experience in moving pupils in thoseyears to level 4?d. What particular challenges do teachers identify in English?e. What particular challenges do teachers identify in mathematics?f. What seem to be the challenges in achievement of level 4 in bothEnglish and mathematics?102

g. Do teaching approaches in Year 6 differ from those in Years 3 to 5? Ifso, how?h. What challenges do teachers experience in moving Year 6 pupils tolevel 4?i. What strategies do teachers employ to address these barriers and helppupils to achieve level 4 in English and mathematics in years 3, 4, 5and 6?j. To what extent are these strategies aimed to improve achievement inboth English and mathematics?k. How effective are these strategies in achieving level 4 in both Englishand mathematics?l. To what extent are effective teaching strategies transferable to othercontexts?103

Appendix 2Long List of Schools fromwhich sample was chosen104

Table 1.2 Long list of schools from which the final sample was chosen.Long list ofFinal sample (1-3)plus spares (4)schools withLEA(with high/average/lowfree school meals) 15% 20%Number of Pupils English L4+ (%) Maths L4+ (%) Discrepancy Averages2002 2003 2004 2002 2003 2004 2002 2003 2004 2002 2003 2004 Pupils English Maths Discrep FSMMaths better FSM Sp Needs ethnicityhigh FSM 1 Leeds 24 27 26 46 48 62 71 63 81 -25 -15 -19 26 52 72 -20 60% 30% highav FSM 4 North Yorks 52 58 35 50 45 91 48 71 100 2 -26 -9 48 62 73 -11 13% 11% lowlow FSM 1 Leeds 31 31 27 71 81 67 87 87 89 -16 -6 -22 30 73 88 -15 low low lowhigh FSM 4 South Tyneside 64 77 72 81 74 71 94 91 90 -13 -17 -19 71 75 92 -16 51% lowlow FSM 3 North Tyneside 31 36 35 87 61 71 90 81 94 -3 -20 -23 34 73 88 -15 15% 19% lowDarlington 37 37 31 51 70 65 73 76 81 -22 -6 -16 35 62 77 -15 >>15% 25%high FSM 2 Sunderland 31 36 30 68 86 67 94 83 87 -26 3 -20 32 74 88 -14 48% lowav FSM 2 Durham 50 45 49 68 89 67 88 91 86 -20 -2 -19 48 75 88 -14 17% lowav FSM 1 South Tyneside 30 33 29 67 64 79 87 73 90 -20 -9 -11 31 70 83 -13 22% lowDurham 62 57 45 90 70 69 97 91 78 -7 -21 -9 55 76 89 -12 >15%?? 30% lowGateshead 53 58 53 62 67 72 79 86 72 -17 -19 0 55 67 79 -12 35% 25% 10%low FSM 4 Darlington 68 70 62 69 61 73 90 67 81 -21 -6 -8 67 68 79 -12 >15% 15% 2%Durham 49 46 38 63 65 66 67 74 87 -4 -9 -21 44 65 76 -11 36% 30% lowSouth Tyneside 35 33 32 66 52 75 77 67 81 -11 -15 -6 33 64 75 -11 38% lowDurham 37 35 34 73 80 68 89 89 74 -16 -9 -6 35 74 84 -10 >20% 1%low FSM 2 Hartlepool 81 75 82 80 57 72 84 73 82 -4 -16 -10 79 70 80 -10 10% 20% lowav FSM 3 South tyneside 59 54 48 75 67 90 85 87 90 -10 -20 0 54 77 87 -10 25% lowhigh FSM 3 Gateshead 35 29 26 77 69 77 77 90 85 0 -21 -8 30 74 84 -10 50% above av low105

English Betterhigh FSM 1 Leeds 60 63 55 67 83 87 48 70 75 19 13 12 59 79 64 15 57% above av. 8%av FSM 2 Bradford 26 29 30 92 79 87 69 83 67 23 -4 20 28 86 73 13 26% 26% lowlow FSM 2 Sheffield 30 31 29 70 81 86 53 58 83 17 23 3 30 79 65 14 12% 25% 25%av FSM 3 North Yorks 35 36 43 77 89 81 69 75 70 8 14 11 38 82 71 11 12% 14% lowav FSM 1 North Tyneside 44 54 46 86 85 85 84 63 76 2 22 9 48 85 74 11 38% 2%low FSM 3 Darlington 34 31 30 79 81 83 68 65 73 11 16 10 32 81 69 12 7% 18% lowlow FSM 1 Durham 28 34 26 75 74 77 71 62 54 4 12 23 29 75 62 13 9% 13% lowhigh FSM 3 Newcastle 31 30 32 71 70 81 52 57 66 19 13 15 31 74 58 16 >>15% average lowhigh FSM 2 Newcastle 35 27 36 86 70 81 57 70 61 29 0 20 33 79 63 16 21% 26% 18%Samehigh FSM 2 Wakefield 56 52 54 82 77 81 86 81 72 -4 -4 9 54 80 80 0 38% 10% lowav FSM 1 Calderdale 55 56 57 73 70 75 76 68 74 -3 2 1 56 73 73 0 20% high lowlow FSM 3 Leeds 60 60 57 80 75 84 77 77 86 3 -2 -2 59 80 80 0 low low highav FSM 2 Durham 35 31 29 89 84 100 89 87 93 0 -3 7 32 91 90 1 15% 30% lowhigh FSM 3 North Tyneside 59 51 55 71 84 89 75 78 89 -4 6 0 55 81 81 1 >>15% 23% lowhigh FSM 1 Stockton 26 27 30 96 81 67 96 78 70 0 3 -3 28 81 81 0 47% 27% lowSouth Tyneside 59 58 60 80 83 83 78 86 83 2 -3 0 59 82 82 0


Appendix 3Head teacher Interview proformaDiscussion Schedule: Subject CoordinatorsInterview schedule: Teaching staff.Pupil focus groups.Lesson observations: Pro-forma.108

Appendix 3 Head Teachers Interview proformaA. Biographical and professional information.1. M/F2. Number of years teaching:3. Number of years as head teacher (here and elsewhere):4. When appointed to current post:5. Subject specialism:B. Curriculum1. How would you describe patterns of achievement in English and mathematics in your school?Open ended reply:Prompts:Patterns in English (e.g. % Level 4, secure/Possible/doubtful).Patterns in mathematicsReasons for differences / consistency109

Differences between year groupsGender differencesOther2. Are you aware of any ways in which the English or mathematics curriculum present problems for teachers?Open ended reply:Prompts:Subject knowledge in EnglishSubject knowledge in mathematics110

Pedagogical subject knowledge in EnglishPedagogical subject knowledge in mathematicsAspects of English curriculum / literacy teachingAspects of mathematics curriculum / numeracyOtherC. School Policies and Practice.1. Teaching policy in English.Open ended reply:Prompts:How was it developed?111

How does it relate to NLS2. Teaching policy in mathematics:Open ended reply:Prompts:How was it developed?How does it relate to NNS?3. Policy on assessment and target setting.Open ended reply:Prompts:Differences between subjects112

How is assessment used in setting targets?Patterns for individual children/ groups?Other4. Intervention programs and other support for children working below age-related expectations.Open ended reply:Prompts:Reading Recovery etc113

Use of LSA or equivalentSENCOUsefulness of SEN CoPParentsOther5. School policy on classroom displays.Open ended reply:Prompts:114

Subjects/ topics to be covered`Children’s work (as opposed to teacher’s or printed materials)Bias towards any subject e.g. literacy?Other6. Policy on home workOpen ended reply:Prompts:How much in English / mathematics?115

To be completed alone or collaboratively with parents?Effectiveness in literacy for possible Level 4 pupils.Effectiveness in numeracy for possible Level 4 pupils.Other.7. Grouping by ability.Open ended reply:Prompts:How achieved?At whose discretion?116

How helpful for possible Level 4 in literacy?How helpful for possible Level 4 in numeracy?Other.8. Role of literacy / numeracy co-ordinators.Open ended reply:Prompts:Time to observe in classrooms?Emphasis on raising standard of possible Level 4?Role in c.p.d?117

Other.9. Policy on c.p.d.Open ended reply:Prompts:Whole staffIndividual members of staff.Role in raising standards of possible Level 4.Other.118

10. Policy on relations with parents.Open ended reply:Prompts:Helping in classroomHelping with homeworkEffectiveness in supporting attempts to raise standards of possible Level 4?Other.D. Classroom teaching approaches: 1. Relevance in achieving consistency in English and mathematics, or in explaining differences.1. Strengths of mathematics teaching, and limitations.Open ended reply:Prompts:119

Strengths with possible Level 4 pupils?Limitations, especially for less able.2. Strengths of literacy teaching, and limitations.Open ended reply:Prompts:Strengths with possible Level 4 pupils?Limitations, especially for less able.3. Are teaching approaches similar across year groups?Open ended reply:Prompts:If not, is this intentional?120

Are years 3-5 similar to each other?Any differences in year 6?Any differences within year groupsOther.4. Opportunities for learning transfer in English.Open ended reply:Prompts:Cross curricular themes – examples?Homework?121

Other.5. Opportunities for learning transfer in mathematics.Open ended reply:Prompts:Cross curricular themes – examples?.Homework?Other122

E. Classroom teaching approaches: 2. Relevance in achieving consistency between attainment of boys and girls, or in explainingdifferences.1. Does the school’s equal opportunities policy address possible differences between boys and girls in the proportion achieving Level 4 inEnglish and mathematics?Open ended reply:Prompts:Do you see these differences seen as a potential problem?Does EOP focus on gender as well as ethnicity?Strategies for preventing under-achievement of boys / girls.Do these strategies focus on literacy / numeracy activities directly orindirectly?Other.123

2. How does the school promote consistency between boys and girls in achieving Level 4 in both subjects?Open ended reply:Prompts:Resources.Choice of teaching materialsAssessment policy / target settingClassroom seating and grouping arrangementsOther124

3. Have you detected potential gender bias in teaching activities and resources?Open ended reply:Prompts:Examples in English resources?Examples in mathematics resources?Examples in English teaching activities?Examples in mathematics teaching activities?How addressed?Other.125


Appendix 3Discussion Schedule: Subject Co-ordinatorsA. Biographical and Professional InformationSubject: mathematics/ literacy Sex: Year appointed to present Co-ordinator post:Professional, academic qualifications and/or training: Total no. of years as a Co-ordinator:Bi Curriculum - colleagues1 Which aspects and areas of your subject do your colleagues enjoy most? Why?Open-ended reply:(Encourage T to identify underlying themes orissues, not just specific topics)Easy to understand these principles, topicsEase of teaching these principles, topics (explorewhat this means)Same/different across KS2? Why?Relevance to everyday life/familiarityIs curriculum in some years moreteachable/accessible/…2 Do your colleagues enjoy similar aspects and areas? Why?Open-ended reply:(Interested in range across colleagues in terms of:qualifications, use of effective teaching skills…127

Same/different across Ys 3-6 in KS2? Why?3 Which aspects or areas do they find most difficult to teach? Why?Open-ended reply:Lack of subject knowledgeLack of teaching skills knowledgeLack of good cpdSame/different across Ys 3-6 of KS2? Why?Same across all abilities?Pupil-related problems (explore – discipline, p’smotivation…)Low confidence, possibly relating to certain ofabove4 Which aspects do they find most straightforward? Why?Open-ended reply:Good resourcesFamiliarity with necessary knowledge128

Are these same/different from Ys 3 to 6 in KS2? Why?Easy to teach effectively (examples of an effectiveteaching routine?)Are these same across all abilities?Bii Curriculum - pupils5 Which aspects do children in Years 3-6 find easy to understand and learn? Why?Open-ended reply:Are identified aspects associated with allability-levels? Expand…Easy steps from previous learning?Any changes as pupils go up through Key Stage2?Familiarity, unusualness, relevance to dailylife…What makes some things easy to learn andothers harder?Do these aspects match those you thinkteachers find easy to understand? And easyto teach?6 Which aspects do children find most challenging to understand and learn? Why?129

Open-ended reply:Do all ability levels have problems withthese? Expand…Unrelated to previous learning?Unrelated to daily life?Are these same aspects as those you thinkteachers have difficulty with?C School policy and practice: Issues relating subject co-ordination with subject attainment7 How would you describe and explain the vertical pattern of attainment of pupils in your subject throughout KS2, from years 3-6?Open-ended reply:Reason?How do you explain this pattern?(patterns relating to gender, ethnicbackground, other intake factors…)8 How far do individual children move up and down the attainment range over their 4 years in KS2?)Open-ended reply:(Q is trying to get to whetherchildren move ability groupings verymuch, any flexibility?130

9 There is some year-on-year consistency in KS2 national tests in your subject. How do you explain that?Open-ended reply:Teachers’ knowledge and use of effective teachingTeacher’s knowledge of the subject in their yearTeachers’ knowledge of subject across all of KS2Pupils’ attitude and/or motivationPupils’ abilityStaff ethos – team spirit10 How do you monitor progression from year to year in your subject and how do you use this information?Open-ended reply:Regular school-wide assessmentsAssessments centrally set and markedClass teacher assessmentsRegular meetings to discuss progressionissuesUse made of monitoring information?131

D Practice of role as subject co-ordinator:1. Relevance in promoting consistency in Level 4 attainment through effective subjectmanagement11 How do you promote and encourage learning in your subject across KS2?Open-ended reply:Raise subject’s profile by…Support staff by…Offer cpd…Select resources…12 What do you see as the main challenges to being an effective subject co-ordinator?External pressures (meeting school targets, theOpen-ended reply:curriculum, money for resources…)Internal pressures (colleagues’ needs, children’sabilities, attitudes…)132

13 What teaching approaches do you consider to be most effective within your subject and why?Open-ended reply:(Elicit without proffering examples specific instancesof teaching approaches)Why?How knowledge of these acquired? How easy totransmit to colleagues? How easy to use inclassroom?Related to specific aspects of the curriculum?14 What teaching approaches would you discourage your colleagues from using? Why?Open-ended reply:What makes these undesirable?(Again, elicit if possible specific e.g.s of teachingapproaches)What makes them undesirable?How this knowledge obtained?15 What teaching approaches are used in this school in your subject?Open-ended reply:Modelling by teacherInteractiveTraditional133

MixtureWhole classSmall groupPairedIndividualProblem-solving16 What similarities and differences are there in these teaching approaches from one year to the next across KS2?Open-ended reply:Are years 3, 4 and 5 similar/different to each other?And year 6?Why?Where do similarities/differences lie year-on-year?17 How far are teaching approaches to your subject similar within each year group (if large enough school to have more than 1 formentry)?Open-ended reply:(How far does co-ordinator exercise high, mediumor low level of ‘control’ and/or vigilance overcolleagues’ teaching routines?)Similarities/differences?134

18 In this school, which factors are most important for class teachers in maintaining the pupils’ performance in Level 4?Open-ended reply: policy development,c.p.d program,resources,pupil organisation into learning groups,additional pupil support,parental involvement,LEA involvement,use of specific teaching routines,range of learning experiences,planning,assessment for learning,individualised target settingdiscipline19 What policy/policies do you promote for teaching the whole of the ability range and why? Is this consistent across all KS2? Why?Open-ended reply:Ability-groupings within-classWithdrawalMixed ability class teachingPaired work to bring on lower abilityDifferentiated inputsDifferentiated outputsMixtures of the aboveWhy?Problems due to ability range?135

20 Have there been any changes in the last three years in the school’s implementation of the Literacy / Numeracy Strategy? If so, whatchanges have been made, why and what has been the impact?Open-ended reply:publication/dissemination of ‘Excellence andEnjoyment’Why?Impact?other source of triggers for change? Owndecision?21 Have you attended any subject training provided through the National Strategy? If so, how helpful was this for specific teaching approaches?Open-ended reply:Sources of training such as regional coordinators,LEA consultants, materialsthemselvesHelpfulness?Types of training: workshops, courses, meetings22 How do you deploy Teaching Assistants in your subject across KS2? What is their contribution to the subject’s Level 4 attainment pattern?Open-ended reply:On what basis are deployment decisions made? Howare their effectiveness judged and monitored?How often are decisions altered?136

Contribution to Level 4?How do TAs and class teachers function together?Central, essential, variable, …Notion of team work discernible?E Practice of Role as a Subject co-ordinator; 2. Relevance in promoting consistent Level 4 through effective management of pupils’attainments23 What is your policy towards setting individual targets for pupils? How far are you able to ensure this is implemented effectively?Open-ended reply:(Try to get flavour of role interpretation e.g. Is styleof policy-setting highly consultative or opposite?)How effective? Why?24 How do you provide additional support/intervention for children working below age-related expectations? How do you monitor theimpact of additional support/intervention?Open-ended reply:School priority/Bidding system/Allocation by need…How support provided137

Types of interventionTargeted teaching and materials…Impact gauged?Formally/informally… (tested? word of mouth?)25 *How do you support children for whom English is an additional language? What is the progress of these children compared with thewhole school population? (*Where appropriate)Open-ended reply:Degree of need for support?How assessed, monitored?How effective is this support?What is progress of these children compared to rest of school?26 What have you noticed about boys’ and girls’ responses to the teaching strategies you suggest for use in your subject? What explanationcan you offer?Open-ended reply:Differences more imagined than real?Changes with age?Reasons?Pre-set gender behaviours? Rate of development?Matters to do with types of knowledge to be learnt?138

F General Experience of Work as Co-ordinatorHow effectively do teachers use other curriculum subjects to reinforce their lessons in your specialist subject? Can you give examples this term?Can you comment on how far classroom displays help children’s learning in your subject? Examples?Is there a homework policy for your subject? Can you describe it and how it is implemented? How effective is it? Why?Can you tell me about the most recent informal discussion with a class teacher in your work as a co-ordinator?What formal sessions have taken place this year (or are planned)?Can you tell me about parents’ interest in your curriculum subject? How important is it for them for their child to achieve Level 4?What, if any, out of school hours support is there for your subject?What collaboration is there between the co-ordinators of Mathematics and literacy in developing strategies for teaching in KS2?G OtherThank you for your help. Can you think of anything we’ve missed?139

Appendix 4Interview schedule: Teaching staff.A. Biographical and professional information.Post held in school Class Teacher of Year …….Professional qualifications Number of years in teachingSubject specialism SexB. Curriculum.1 What do you feel are the real challenges in the English curriculum for Year x?Open-ended reply:Prompts: Ensuring activities forSpeakingListeningReading: basic skills/higher orderSpellingGrammatical understandingWriting140

2 What do you feel are the real challenges in the mathematics curriculum for Year x?141

Open ended reply:Prompts about specific topics within:NumberShapeDataMeasuresICTOral vs written workUsing & Applying mathematics142

3 What are the real challenges your pupils face in achieving the standard required to reach age-appropriate national levels in bothEnglish and mathematics at once?Open-ended reply:Prompts:Time available for each subjectSchool prioritiesParents’ prioritiesAttitude/motivationResourcesOpportunities for learning transfer (cross curricular links etc)143

4 How do you feel about your own English subject knowledge for teaching the English curriculum?Open-ended reply:Prompts:Adequacy of own first degreeAdequacy of other academic workAwareness of areas of difficulty or uncertainty5 How do you feel about your own mathematical subject knowledge for teaching the mathematics curriculum?Open-ended reply:Prompts:Adequacy of own first degreeAdequacy of other academic workAwareness of areas of difficulty or uncertainty144

6 How knowledgeable or well-informed do you feel about effective ways of teaching the English curriculum?Open-ended reply:Prompts:ITT courseCPD (specify)Assistance from school’s literacy co-ordinator (examples?)7 How knowledgeable or well-informed do you feel about effective ways of teaching the mathematics curriculum?Open-ended reply:Prompts:ITT courseCPD (specify)Assistance from school’s mathematics co-ordinator (examples?)145

C School policy and practice: Relevance in establishing / maintaining consistency in pupil attainment in English and mathematics, or inexplaining differences.8. Can you tell me something about how school policies have an effect upon your efforts in the classroom to try to get pupils to achieve nationallevels?Open-ended reply:i mathematicsPrompts:Assessment policies in mathematics and English;Target setting in mathematics and English;ii EnglishCPD opportunities in Mathematics and English;Grouping policies in mathematics and English;Policies on the application of NNS/NLS/PS146

D Classroom teaching approaches: 1. Relevance in promoting consistency in pupil Level 4 attainment in English and mathematics, or inexplaining differences.9 How you would describe the patterns of attainment in your class in English?Open-ended reply:Prompts:How many pupils do you regard as:(If Y6)Secure Level 4?Potential Level 4?Doubtful Level 4?(If Y3,4,or 5)Above…At…Below……national expectationsHow consistent? Why?147

10 How would you describe patterns of attainment in your class in mathematics?Open-ended reply:Prompts:How many pupils do you regard as:(If Y6)Secure Level 4?Potential Level 4?Doubtful Level 4?(If Y3,4,or 5)Above…At…Below……national expectationsHow consistent? Why?148

11 What steps have you taken to enable as many pupils as possible to achieve age-national-expectation levels in English?Open-ended reply:Prompts:For Y3,4,& 5: strategies to maintain progressionFor Y6: strategies for potential level 4 pupilsMain obstacles for these pupils(inadequate resources, low ability, low motivation,curriculum too demanding…)149

12 What steps have you taken to enable as many pupils as possible to achieve national-expectation levels in mathematics?Open-ended reply:Prompts:For Y3,4,& 5: strategies to maintain progressionFor Y6: strategies for potential level 4 pupilsMain obstacles to these pupils(inadequate resources, low ability, low motivation,curriculum too demanding…)150

13 What would you say were the strategies common to English and mathematics in helping pupils to achieve age-appropriate national levels/Level 4 in both subjects ORwhat strategies in English OR in mathematics (whichever applies)help pupils achieve age-appropriate national levels/Level 4?Open-ended reply:Prompts:EITHEREffective strategies common to BOTH subjectsOREffective strategies used in numeracy but not necessarily in literacyOREffective strategies used in literacy but not necessarily in numeracyAnother prompt: Do you use either of ALS or FLS or ELS?Who takes groups? How often, when?///Maths: Springboard?3/4/5 0rIf Y6, Booster classes? Who for? How long?151

14 Would you describe how you plan for differentiation in your English teaching?Open-ended reply:Prompts:Steps taken in PlanningDifferentiating by inputDifferentiating by outputExpectationsAbility groupingDifferentiated tasksUse of interventions such as Reading Recovery, Success for All orequivalentPlanning differences between mathematics and English sessions152

15 Would you describe how you plan for differentiation in your mathematics teaching?Prompts:Open-ended reply:Steps taken in PlanningDifferentiating by inputDifferentiating by outputExpectationsAbility groupingDifferentiated tasksUse of interventions such, Success for All or equivalentPlanning differences between mathematics and English sessions153

16 (To Y6 Teachers only) How would you say that support systems are used to help potential Level 4 pupils to achieve Level 4 in i. English andii mathematics?Open-ended reply:i. EnglishPrompts:Interventions such as Reading Recovery, Success for All,LSA or equivalentSupport teachers, classroom assistants,teaching assistants,ii.mathematicsSchool SENCO (e.g. direct teaching, or releasing class teacher)iii.Differences?ParentsAny differences between Mathematics and English in use of support systems154

17 (Y6 only) How do you feel about the effectiveness of different teaching / learning approaches for helping potential Level 4 pupils actuallyto achieve Level 4 in English.Open-ended reply:Prompts: Types of teaching/learning approach, including…Whole-class teachingIndividual workSmall groupsPaired workInteractive learning (probe what this is like)Problem-based learning (probe what this is like)Other155

18 (Y6 only) How do you feel about the effectiveness of different teaching / learning approaches for helping potential Level 4 pupils to achieveLevel 4 in mathematics?Open-ended reply:Prompts: Types of teaching/learning approach, including…Whole-class teachingIndividual workSmall groupsPaired workInteractive learning (probe what this is like)Problem-based learning (probe what this is like)Other156

E Classroom teaching approaches: 2 Relevance in promoting consistency in boys’ and girls’ attainments.19 Would you tell about how curriculum materials and tasks are selected in English?Open-ended reply:Please ensure that the teacher has the opportunity to talk aboutAvailability of resourcesResponses of boys / girls to gender oriented materialsAny policy on mixed / single sex tables?Pupil choice or teacher choice?Pupil responses.Feedback to which pupils respond best – direct or indirect157

20 Would you talk about how curriculum materials and tasks are selected in mathematics?Open-ended reply:Please ensure that the teacher has the opportunity to talk aboutAvailability of resourcesResponses of boys / girls to gender oriented materialsAny policy on mixed / single sex tables?Pupil choice or teacher choice?Pupil responses.Feedback to which pupils respond best – direct or indirect.158

21 How would you describe the seating arrangement in mathematics activities?Open-ended reply:Prompts:Please ensure that the teacher has the opportunity to talk aboutAny policy on mixed / single sex tables?Pupil choice or teacher choice?Pupil responses.159

22 How would you describe the seating arrangement in English activities?Open-ended reply:Prompts:Please ensure that the teacher has the opportunity to talk aboutAny policy on mixed / single sex tables?Pupil choice or teacher choice?Pupil responses.160

22 To what type of feedback do you feel that boys and girls respond best in mathematics?Open-ended reply:Prompts:Please ensure that the teacher has the opportunity to talk aboutDirect (e.g. ‘good’ etc verbally or on work marked, use of reward points)Indirect (e.g. allowing more independent action, responsibility)161

22 To what type of feedback do you feel that boys and girls respond best in English?Open-ended reply:Prompts:Please ensure that the teacher has the opportunity to talk aboutDirect (e.g. ‘good’ etc verbally or on work marked, use of reward points)Indirect (e.g. allowing more independent action, responsibility)162


Appendix 5 Pupil focus groups.A. Background information.Year group:Number of pupils:Gender ratio:How selected:B. Curriculum.1. Do you like English better or mathematics?Show of hands.Open ended replies. Prompts.Why English? (Note if boy or girl)Why mathematics? (Note if boy or girl)164

The subject in general?The things your teacher gives you to do?The fact that they are difficult / easy?Other.2. How important is it to get Level 4? (For Years 3 and 4 ask: “… to do well in your school work?”)Open ended reply. Prompts.In English? Why?In mathematics? Why?165

C. Classroom teaching approaches: 1. Relevance in promoting consistency in attainments in English and mathematics, or inexplaining differences.1. Are English and mathematics the same this year as last year or different?Open ended reply. English: How the same?English: How different?Mathematics: How the same?Mathematics: How different?166

2. Do you usually work on your own, or in a group, or does your teacher teach the whole class together?Open ended reply. Prompts.In English?In mathematics?Who chooses the groups?How? (i.e. criteria?)3. Is there a difference in how you are taught English and mathematics?Open ended reply. Prompts.If so can you explain?167

How are they different?How are they the same?4. Have you had any of your work displayed on the wall this term?Open ended reply. Prompts.In English (describe work)?In mathematics?Other?5. Does your teacher have an interactive whiteboard? Does it make teaching more interesting?168

Open ended reply. Prompts.In English?In mathematics?6. Do you use computers in your class work?Open ended reply. PromptsExample in EnglishExample in mathematics7. Think of something you found really hard; how did your teacher try to help you?Open ended reply. Prompts.In English?169

In mathematics?Encouragement / reassurance?Learning strategies?8. If you were allowed to give your teacher advice on how to teach you, what would you say?Open ended reply. Prompts.In English?In mathematics?9. Imagine that you must finish a piece of work, but you re finding it really hard.There is no-one you can ask for help, because everyone is busy! Can you think of anything that might help?170

Open ended reply. PromptExample in English?Example in mathematics?10. Imagine that your class has just done a test and didn’t do very well. What might your teacher say?Open ended reply. Prompt.In English.In mathematics.171

10. When was your last homework in English? What was it?Open ended reply. Prompt.How difficult?Did anyone help you with it?How did it help you with your work in class?11. When was your last homework in mathematics?Open ended reply. Prompts.How difficult?Did anyone help you with it?172

How did it help you with your work in class?D. Classroom teaching approaches: 2. Relevance in promoting consistency in boys’ and girls’ attainments, or in explainingdifferences.1. In general, which do boys like best, English or mathematics? And girls?Open ended reply. Prompts.Why?Can you explain?2. Think of materials you use and things you do in English. Do you think they help boys learn better, or girls?Open ended reply. Prompts.Examples?Reasons?173

3. Think of materials you use and things you do in mathematics. Do you think they help boys learn better or girls?Open ended reply. PromptsExamples?Reasons?4. If you could choose who was on your table, would it be only boys, only girls or a mix of boys and girls?Open ended reply. Prompts:Why?Would it be different for English?Or for mathematics?174

Would you learn better if you could choose who175


Appendix 6Lesson observations: Revised Pro-forma.A. Background information.Number in class.Number in lesson.Subject.Theme of lesson.B. Overview of lesson.1. Theme / topic:2. Learning objectives.List. Prompts.Explicit at start of lesson?3. Pupil tasks and activities.177

ListPrompts.Intellectual demand?Pupils’ responses.Understood by pupils?Role of TAs or LSAs.4. Resources used.Summarise. Prompts.Pupils’ response?Helpful to pupils below age-related expectations?178

5. Seating / grouping arrangements.General observations.By ability?By gender?Other?6. Overview of lesson:Descriptive summary.C. Evidence in lesson of whole school policies.1. Termly / weekly planning.179

General observation. . PromptsAmount of detailHow did this lesson fit into the weekly plan?2. Application of NNS and NLS.General observation. Prompts.How closely followed?Divergence from strategy?How (well) are they integrated with other classroom work?180

3. Support for children working below age-related expectations.General observations. Prompts.TALSADifferentiation by taskDifferentiation by outcomeSpecial programs, (e.g. Reading Recovery)Parents.181

4. Classroom environment, including displays.General observations. Prompts.An aid to learning in English?An aid to learning in mathematics?Children’s work displayed?5. Homework.General observations. Prompts.Used to reinforce learning?182

D. Classroom teaching approaches: 1. Relevance to pupils’ attainments in English and mathematics.1. Planning for this lesson.General observation. Prompts.Clarity?Understood by all pupils?2. Start tasks and activities.General observation.How was task presented?How were activities presented?Pupils’ responses, particularly those with attainments below age level.183

3. Tasks and activities in main part of lesson.General observation. Prompt.How were tasks presented?How were activities presented?How were pupils organised?Pupil responses, particularly those with attainments below age level.4. Support offered to pupils when stuck.General observation. . PromptsWas pupils’ need for support recognised?184

How was it provided?Differences in support offered to attainment groups?5. Teacher judgements.General observations. . PromptsClarity: were pupils sure how well they were doing – what they hadgot right or wrong?How were judgements given to pupils?How were they acted on by pupils?185

6. What social skills did pupils practice in the lesson:General observation. . PromptsCollaboration in pairs.Collaboration in groupsTalking to classGeneral comment on pupils’ behaviour and responses.7. What educational skills did pupils practice, e.g. constructing, drawing, listening etc?General observation. Prompts.186

Pupils’ engagement in these?Differences between attainment groups?8. Closing tasks and activities.General observation. Prompts.L.O.s achieved?Pupils responses?E. Classroom teaching approaches: 2. Relevance to attainments in English and mathematics of boys and girls.1. Teacher judgements on boys’ and girls’ social interactions and behaviour.General observation. Prompts.187

To boys – examples?To girls – examples?Clarity of judgements to boys and girls.2. Teacher judgements on boys’ and girls’ work.General observations. . PromptsTo boys – examples?To girls – examples?Clarity of judgements to boys and girls.188

3. Support offered to boys and girls when in difficultyGeneral observation. Prompts.To boys? Responses?To girls? Responses?4. Choice of resources, materials and examples.General observation. Prompts.“Boy friendly”?“Girl friendly”?189

5. Responses of boys and girls to tasks and activities.General observations. Prompts.Boys – examplesGirls – examples.190

Copies of this publication can be obtained from:DfES PublicationsP.O. Box 5050Sherwood ParkAnnesleyNottinghamNG15 0DJTel: 0845 60 222 60Fax: 0845 60 333 60Minicom: 0845 60 555 60Oneline: www.dfespublications.gov.uk© University of Durham 2005Produced by the Department for Education and SkillsISBN 1 84478 608 0Ref No: RR699www.dfes.go.uk/research

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