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Research School Network: Keeping Calm with Curriculum Post Lockdown ‘Don’t try to teach everything, you can’t possibly do it effectively’ – The COVID catch up counundrum


Keeping Calm with Curriculum Post Lockdown

‘Don’t try to teach everything, you can’t possibly do it effectively’ – The COVID catch up counundrum

by Blackpool Research School
on the

Heather Martin - Executive Assistant Principal BEBCMAT

Being faced with the new challenge of remote learning, during the first lockdown the primary academies within our Trust chose to focus on reviewing knowledge from previous topics within our maths lessons. Once our confidence with remote learning procedures grew and our practice had developed, we spent time delivering new concepts via live lessons during the second lockdown. Whilst we worked hard to support all our students we also recognise that not all of our pupils engaged fully with lessons leading to varying gaps in knowledge. However this is not a unique problem. A report in June 2020 from the Education Endowment Foundation stated that School closures are likely to reverse progress made to close the gap in the last decade since 2011. Therefore we are all faced with the dilemma of where to go next.

Deciding on next steps

As the Primary Maths lead myself and the maths team have been faced with selecting what to teach for the remaining weeks, juggling the upcoming content whilst also plugging the gaps.

The following quote from Debbie Morgan from the National Centre for Excellence in Teaching Mathematics (NCETM) was our lightbulb moment and was almost our green light to do what deep down we knew was right for our children.

‘Don’t try to teach everything, you can’t possibly do it effectively’

Debbie Morgan - NCETM

Reflecting on this has really helped our maths team to focus on what is important. The NCETM also outlined that the pandemic offers an opportunity to recalibrate and prioritise curriculum. This has certainly been the case for us.

We have considered which concepts are important for our children to know and carefully reflected on the teaching order so that students would build on schema and make clear connections between mathematical concepts. This is something which is highlighted as important by both the EYFS and KS1 and the KS2 and KS3 Improving Mathematics guidance reports.

However we also felt that rebuilding relationships with our students was key to success too. With that in mind we chose to start with geometry, a new topic for all. Our rationale for this was that all children would start on an even playing field, it did not matter if some had not engaged as much remotely, it would give staff time to re-engage children with maths and also start to assess gaps in number knowledge for either intervention or whole class re teaching. Children and staff responded positively to this.

Building on this, for the rest of the summer term we will focus on multiplication, division and fractions so that we are building on the number and calculation work already completed. Throughout staff have been positive with children about maths and not focussed on the time that has been lost but on what our children can do.

So what has been the…

To guide us with our assessment choices (what, when and how) we reflected on the thoughts of Professor Rob Coe in his blog Assessing learning in the new academic year’. We have opted to use low stakes testing and diagnostic assessment so that we can focus our efforts on finding out what the children know and what gaps or misconceptions they may have.

Taking this step back, reflecting and resisting the temptation to try to cover everything to catch up’ on time lost has helped both children and staff to focus on what is important. We have taken Debbie Morgan’s advice of slowing down to go fast’ and are starting to see the benefits. Children are engaged in good quality maths lessons, are calm and are demonstrating to teachers in daily lessons that there is no need to panic.

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