If you work in a school where the senior management are reluctant to adopt a mastery curriculum and all the things that go with it (teaching style, intervention structure, assessment systems, etc.) then point them here!
I had the opportunity to listen to Jane Jones HMI speak at the Maths Hubs Primary Conference today and did my best to capture what Jane was saying. You’ll see from the notes below, how positive Ofsted are about a mastery approach to maths.
It’s important to mention that Jane has reviewed and okayed these notes.
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You might not expect to see ‘synergy’, ‘Ofsted’ and ‘mastery’ in the same sentence but that is how we see it.
Ofsted believe there needs to be a marriage of knowing the basic facts with deeper understanding (not pursuing either in the absence of the other.)
Under the previous curriculum, pupils have tended to very quickly be put on to a particular track. If they are ‘rapid graspers’ (rather than ‘high attainers’) they go a higher/faster track but if they’re not, they go on to a lower/slower track. In both cases that’s where they stay.
Instead Ofsted are of the belief that all pupils should achieve including and especially pupils from disadvantaged backgrounds. A mastery of maths approach is a vehicle for catching pupils up and keeping them caught up.
Differentiation in the past meant pupils doing different maths. Teachers, on a regular basis, still produce anything up to 5 different worksheets per lesson for different attainment bands. Jane, and her colleagues, would like to see more practical equipment being used and their continued use into KS2, KS3 and KS4 where appropriate. Practical equipment allows pupils to build mental models on which to hang their understanding of a concept.
When watching a mastery lesson, and Jane’s inspectors know this, whole class teaching could look slower than usual. What’s important is that learning is deeper.
“Deepening understanding” is in the Ofsted handbook, not “accelerating teaching”.
On the matter of the Ofsted handbook, paragraph 55 is a good place to look as it is on inspecting maths.
Things inspectors are looking forward to considering how well:
- Pupils are thinking and reasoning.
- Pupils are applying skills fluently and efficiently, arriving at accurate answers.
- Pupils are using resources to aid their understanding.
There is nothing in the Ofsted handbook that conflicts with the principles of mastery of maths.
If Jane was a primary headteacher and she knew Ofsted were coming in she would prepare a single side document (or shorter) for the inspectors that said:
- What the school is trying to do to take maths forward from where they were/are to a mastery of maths approach.
- What an inspector might typically see in the lessons.
- What you are doing to address interventions quickly so that pupils can keep up and what you are doing to stretch the rapid graspers.
- How far you have got in developing systems to help you track attainment and progress in maths – focusing on the most important things ready for the next stage/year/term.
Jane concluded her talk with a call for everyone in the room to “Go for it! Do the right thing for your pupils!”
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It seems Ofsted are taking great strides to ensure there is internal consistency amongst the inspectors, who are currently having to reapply to keep their jobs in September. As part of the re-recruitment process, inspectors must receive training on the mastery approach and certainly one HMI who I met this week was telling me, with convincing conviction, about what he was hoping to see in maths lessons with regards to ‘section 55’.