Herts for Learning

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Making judgements

Differentiation – How different does it have to look?

Nicola Adams is an adviser for Primary Mathematics at Herts for Learning.  In this, her first blog, she considers how differentiation or meeting the needs of all learners in the classroom is crucial but not always evident to those observing a lesson. She builds on Rachel Rayner’s blog FOMA – Fear of Maths Accountability to demonstrate how three boxes for differentiation is missing the point, and that observers must engage with the teacher before making judgements.

Picture this. Somebody is coming in to observe your maths lesson and what they see is all of the children doing the same thing. They all have access to the same manipulatives; they can all see the same working wall; they are sat in mixed-ability partners, they are playing a mathematical game… and there is conversation happening. The horror! Are they going to say that you are not challenging your more able? Are they going to ask why your lower ability children are not being supported by an adult? Are they going to say that your more able children simply don’t need the same manipulatives as the others? Just where is the differentiation? Continue reading “Differentiation – How different does it have to look?”

The ‘Goldilocks Principle’ and Curriculum Design

Rachel Rayner is a Primary Mathematics Adviser at Herts for Learning.  The team are currently engaged in designing a mathematics curriculum for schools and teachers.  In this blog she considers how curriculum design impacts on learners.  This will be the first of a series of blogs on progression and design.

As a maths team we are currently writing every sequence of learning from Year 1 week 1 Autumn term to Year 6 final week Summer term. More on that later.  But I don’t mind telling you that it’s raised quite a few questions on the team about what a great curriculum for maths should look like.  Curriculum ‘14 for mathematics raised age-old debates – acceleration versus breadth and depth, knowledge versus engagement – let the twitter set debate. Furthermore, the new curriculum is being regularly referred to as a ‘mastery curriculum,’ heralding a bewildering array of products stamped with the ‘mastery’ brand all claiming to revolutionise your curriculum and behave rather like you might imagine a magic wand to work. And yet, and yet…still we battle to build a secure curriculum framework and schools are desperately seeking something (even after they have discovered concrete-pictorial-abstract).  One in which, age-related expectations become the norm for all pupils irrespective of their prior attainment – though we know there are a few children for whom added provision is ever needed irrespective of the curriculum. On top of that OfSTED are looking at how curriculum design supports learning for all pupils even beyond the mathematics lessons.  So where do we even begin? In this the first of a series of blogs I want to set out the current landscape as I see it (and sorry but no, I don’t possess even a modicum of fairy dust or a magic wand) before focusing in further in future blogs.  Continue reading “The ‘Goldilocks Principle’ and Curriculum Design”

KS2 SATs 2017 – Lessons Learned (The Sequel)

Louise Racher is a Mathematics Teaching and Learning Adviser at HfL, in this she gives her own interpretation of what priorities teachers might have had leading up to KS2 SATs, and what the priorities might be for next year following the second year of “New Curriculum” SATs.

Year 6 teachers had their game face on for the second year of the newly revised end of KS2 SATs.  Greater awareness of how the papers would be presented meant it was a slightly fairer fight and lessons learned from the previous year were taken on board and assimilated back into classrooms across the land.  Continue reading “KS2 SATs 2017 – Lessons Learned (The Sequel)”

Year 5: Making the Last Term Count

Calling all Year 5 teachers! Louise Racher sets out what your pupils need to secure this term in readiness for their final year at primary.  

Yes, the summer term is fast approaching. Year 5 are pulling up their socks, straightening their ties and getting ready to oust the current Year 6 pupils from their top spot.  Year 6, this final year of primary school, or the end of Key Stage for those in middle schools.  Along with Year 6 comes the end of Key Stage assessments which the school will be accountable for, whether they are good, bad or ugly.  Continue reading “Year 5: Making the Last Term Count”

Greater Depth at KS1 is Elementary My Dear Teacher

Rachel Rayner is a Mathematics Adviser at HfL and is one of the KS1 Number Sense and Fluency project leads in Hertfordshire and Cambridgeshire.  The project aims to support teachers to develop pupils’ retention of facts and how we can help them use learned facts flexibly.  The project has been hugely successful and findings have been presented at conferences and journals. In this blog, Rachel turns her attention to what the greater depth judgement actually means and what kinds of opportunities can be used to foster it.

I’ve spent a lot of time in schools recently considering with teachers whether they have pupils working at greater depth in Year 2 but also what that might look like in Year 1.  Part of this work has, understandably been with schools who are fully expecting to be moderated this year and would like their books to reflect evidence for pupils they suspect could achieve the greater depth tag.  Why so nervous?  Well the landscape for maths has shifted in terms of expectation, whereas before L3 might be judged by acceleration into new coverage, speed and accuracy which seem easier to tick off, now ‘Greater Depth’ seems a little hazier, perhaps just out of reach. Indeed the language of judgement gives us the weightiest indicator with the change from high attainer to working at greater depth.  In terms of scaled score versus Interim Teacher Assessment Framework (ITAF), there seems a difference in expectation too. This has left schools feeling uncertain about their own judgements.  I have plenty of sympathy for schools and the greatest respect for the teachers who are questioning their judgements and recognising the shift. Continue reading “Greater Depth at KS1 is Elementary My Dear Teacher”

Tried and tested: Diminishing the difference at UKS2

Nicola Randall is a Primary Mathematics Adviser for Herts for Learning where she has been working on closing the gaps projects with disadvantaged learners, working with schools to champion their needs.  She has worked on behalf of the Virtual School.

Over the past few years, I have been working with schools across Hertfordshire to accelerate the mathematical progress of pupils in receipt of the pupil premium funding. The DfE research paper (November 2015) suggests that the 3 strategies which have the greatest impact on the attainment of disadvantaged pupils are: paired or small group additional teaching, improving feedback and one-to-one tuition. Whilst these are clearly helpful for closing gaps in understanding or knowledge, sometimes it’s the small tweaks to whole class practise that can make the biggest difference. Having worked alongside teachers, I have looked in great depth at many pupils’ work and together with teachers we have reflected on how the pupils conduct themselves during maths lessons.  What is clear, is that each individual pupil comes with their own experiences, strengths and areas of difficulty yet interestingly, through this approach, I found there were some common barriers holding this vulnerable group back in mathematics. Continue reading “Tried and tested: Diminishing the difference at UKS2”

Are the boys really better at mathematics?

Kate Kellner is a  Primary Maths Adviser at Herts for Learning

Is it possible that we still have a gap in attainment between higher achieving boys and girls in primary mathematics? And, what should we do about it?

I am not the first to write on this topic. Many have gone before me, to lament the achievement of girls in mathematics. Studies over time, and across the world, have tried to fathom why there might be an achievement gap based on gender. Interestingly, the gap is not present across the whole world. It appears to be more prevalent in Anglo-Saxon areas including the UK and the USA. Continue reading “Are the boys really better at mathematics?”

SATs chat: Why did my children revert to written methods on Paper 1?


Rachel Rayner is a Primary Maths Adviser at Herts for Learning

It’s a good question. In my experience working with schools nationally, pupils default to the written method often unthinkingly.   See the lovely examples here of just that happening.

As teachers we value mental fluency and we want our pupils to have it.   But are we working in the right way to engage our pupils over a sustained period of time, out of unthinkingness and into causing pupils to think deeply enough about the facts and skills they are adept at and how they might use them to form a strategy?    Continue reading “SATs chat: Why did my children revert to written methods on Paper 1?”

Subject Leaders and SATs – Where now?

David Cook is the Lead Teaching and Learning Adviser for Primary Mathematics at Herts for Learning

Recently he collated everything he and the team had found after analysing the scripts of both KS1 and KS2 tests and fed this back to Hertfordshire subject leaders and then gathered their experiences together.  This blog reflects that presentation and subsequent work with subject leaders. Continue reading “Subject Leaders and SATs – Where now?”

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