- Published: 14/10/2021
I’d argue that Key Stage 3, by which I mean Years 7, 8 and 9, not the truncated two-year version that some secondary schools misguidedly adopt, are the most crucial years in secondary school maths education. Those students who achieve below a grade 4 in GCSE Mathematics at the age of 16 do so because they did not gain a secure understanding of the Key Stage 3 maths curriculum. A good understanding of the maths at Key Stage 3 would enable a student to achieve a grade 4 or 5 on the foundation tier of GCSE Mathematics, even if they did not extend their knowledge and understanding beyond the Key Stage 3 curriculum during Key Stage 4.
Following the disruption caused by the pandemic, Key Stage 3 is even more vital than usual for students’ maths education because it must address any gaps caused by the disruption and ensure that students are well prepared for Key Stage 4 when they reach Year 10. For this reason, the NCETM/Maths Hubs Secondary Teaching for Mastery Programme and associated CPD programmes and resources have been adapted and developed to help maths teachers ensure that students can, despite the pandemic, build the secure mathematical knowledge and understanding they need to succeed in maths at secondary school. It’s more important than ever to build and consolidate firm mathematical foundations in Key Stage 3, connecting learning and developing concepts, rather than trying to rush to ‘catch up’.
The importance of the Key Stage 3 maths curriculum is why the DfE has just published a Key Stage 3 Non-Statutory Guidance document written by the NCETM’s secondary maths team, led by our Secondary Mathematics director, Carol Knights. The guidance contains comprehensive advice on Key Stage 3 maths teaching. It’s detailed and extensive and has been well received. These are some of the initial comments that colleagues at the NCETM have spotted on social media and elsewhere:
This is great, just for the prior learning and misconceptions detailed.
At a glance this looks to contain clear, practical and thorough advice, with lots of examples and discussion to bring things to life.
This document will be a useful addition to a maths department’s library.
The new guidance is entirely consistent with the NCETM’s teaching for mastery approach. It’s carefully structured to support maths departments to design a coherent Key Stage 3 scheme of work, linking back to Key Stage 2 and forward to Key Stage 4, and includes detailed examples and a sample curriculum framework that sets out a logical order of teaching across Years 7, 8 and 9.
In early October, I was involved in the launch events for this year’s cohort of Secondary Maths Mastery Specialists. The new trainee specialists, 112 of them, attended with a senior leader from their school. Over the next two academic years they will receive training through the NCETM and support from their local Maths Hub to enable them to implement the teaching for mastery approach in their own schools, focusing, of course, on Key Stage 3. They will then be ready to take on the role of Secondary Mastery Specialist, deployed through their Maths Hub as Local Leaders of Maths Education (LLME) to lead local Secondary Mastery Development Work Groups supporting other secondary schools in their region to adopt the NCETM’s teaching for mastery approach.
Since the Secondary Teaching for Mastery Programme began in 2016, the NCETM has trained over 700 Secondary Mastery Specialists who have now worked with over 1,200 secondary schools. For me, a very powerful endorsement of the programme is that many of the new trainee specialists come from schools which have previously engaged with the programme. Of this year’s cohort, a third of them had previously been involved in Secondary Mastery Development Work Groups. Schools and secondary maths teachers who have been involved in the programme go on to become strong advocates for it – as they say, ‘the proof of the pudding…’.
If you are a secondary mathematics teacher whose school has not yet engaged with the NCETM’s Secondary Teaching for Mastery Programme, please consider contacting your local Maths Hub to get involved this year. On the Yorkshire and the Humber Maths Hub website, there’s a powerful account of how a school in Huddersfield did just that three years ago, with great success.
The programme will help you and your school to support students’ immediate needs, given the challenges caused by the pandemic, and will help bring about long-term improvement in how maths is taught in your school.
All NCETM/Maths Hub CPD programmes and resources are available free of charge to state-funded schools.