- Published: 03/09/2021
Are you a secondary school maths teacher, teaching Year 7? If so, I’m asking you to be honest with yourself. How much do you know about the maths your new Year 7s learnt in Key Stage 2? I suspect many of you may have a general sense of what has been taught, but probably don’t really know much detail about breadth and depth of coverage, or how content has been taught.
A secure understanding of the Key Stage 2 mathematics curriculum is a crucial foundation for pupils to make a success of their maths education at secondary school. From my own teaching experience, I know that Year 7s who have a secure understanding of place value and basic fractions, and can reason multiplicatively, are far more likely to master the Key Stage 3 curriculum and go on to succeed at GCSE, especially if this understanding is underpinned by fluent numeracy. My experience of teaching GCSE-resit students confirms this.
Problems associated with Key Stage 3 were highlighted in Ofsted’s 2015 report Key stage 3: the wasted years?, and I’m far from convinced the issues the report identified have been tackled for maths teaching in many secondary schools. Two quotes from the report stand out for me:
‘Many secondary schools do not build sufficiently on pupils’ prior learning.’
‘Key Stage 3 is not a high priority for many secondary school leaders in timetabling, assessment and monitoring of pupils’ progress.’
Ready for the start of the new academic year, the NCETM has developed Checkpoints, an extensive set of classroom activities to support Year 7 mathematics teaching. These activities are designed specifically to help teachers of Year 7 maths to check and reinforce their pupils’ understanding of, and fluency with, fundamental mathematical knowledge and concepts from Key Stage 2. This will help ensure firm foundations are in place for the rest of Key Stage 3 and beyond. The resources provide enough material for up to three 10- to 20-minute classroom activities per week throughout Year 7. Feedback from teachers who have previewed them has been very positive and I’m convinced they can make a major contribution to improving pupils’ transition to secondary school mathematics, which can help many more to go on to succeed at GCSE.
Checking and reinforcing mathematical foundations from the primary curriculum would be important in any year, but the Covid disruption means these transition issues are more important than ever in 2021. I hope this year’s Year 7s will really enjoy these activities and that working on them in their maths lessons will help to boost their confidence as they progress through their first year of secondary school mathematics.
As well as the new Checkpoints resources, the NCETM and Maths Hubs have been engaged in other work to address the primary school to secondary school transition in maths, and to emphasise the importance of mathematics teaching and learning at Key Stage 3:
- Working through Maths Hubs, we have developed professional development to address the transition from Key Stage 2 to Key Stage 3 through a nationally-available Years 5–8 Continuity project, enabling primary and secondary school teachers to work together to help ensure a smooth and coherent transition in pupils’ maths education from primary to secondary school.
- The NCETM’s primary mathematics National Curriculum Guidance document includes ready-to-progress criteria that highlight key areas of the Key Stage 2 curriculum that pupils need to master to be ready for maths at Key Stage 3.
Key Stage 3 is a vital period in young people’s maths education, and we need to make sure it’s used well. It’s the time when the fundamentals of number, arithmetic and basic geometry—rooted in the primary maths curriculum—should become second nature. This should, in turn, provide a solid foundation from which the basics of algebra, coordinate geometry, trigonometry and statistics can be mastered. Crucially, it’s the time when pupils should realise that maths is not an ever-growing set of rules to be remembered. Instead, they should learn that the different aspects of the mathematics curriculum form a logically-connected whole, and that maths is a rewarding and enjoyable subject that they can learn with confidence and make use of in the future.
I strongly recommend the NCETM’s Checkpoints activities, which I believe will help to ensure that Year 7 is a positive mathematical experience for those starting secondary school this year.