When we heard how Woodcot Primary in Gosport had improved their KS2 SATs results in Maths to almost double their ARE percentage in just one year, we asked their Maths Lead, Rebecca Jakes to unpack her strategy for Maths improvement. Here’s her lowdown so you can take away what might work for you. And yes, our 1-to-1 Maths SATs booster lessons were crucial to her 2017 SATs  success, but by no means the only element!  

We all remember the struggle of SATs in 2016. Leaders were in despair, teachers were in tears and Year 6 pupils across the country were told they ‘did not meet expected standards’ in Maths.

I am Year 6 teacher at Woodcot Primary School in Gosport, and our school was no different. The children struggled to answer the 36 arithmetic questions in 30 minutes and – when faced with the difficulty of the reasoning papers – they crumbled. Only 45% of our pupils met the expected standard.

So the big question was, ‘What are we going to do about it?’

This blog charts how we virtually doubled our SATs results 2017 when 88% of pupils met the expected standard.

Read on for the three main changes we made: Singapore Maths, increased focus on arithmetic, expert specialist Maths support from Third Space Learning; and then the factor underpinning it all,  a real turnaround in pupils’ attitudes to Maths.

1.  We improved the teaching of Maths by following a Singapore Approach

As a school, we had already made considerable changes to the way we teach Maths, following the Singapore Maths Mastery approach.  

We had been using the Inspire Maths scheme of work for a year as a resource to teach Maths concepts and we were already seeing the benefit of this across the school.

Taking concrete, pictorial and abstract approach in particular, throughout the Key Stages, led to a much greater conceptual and deeper understanding for pupils.

This wasn’t without teething problems.  For instance, we quickly realised that we needed to add in extra opportunities for reasoning and problem solving each week on top of the text-book suggestions.

With this in mind, we adapted our approach to ensure concepts were taught using INSPIRE and pupils then applied their skills to problems from a range of sources (White Rose Maths Hub, TTS ‘Dip and Pick’ and problem solving resources from Third Space Learning to name a few).

Our Year 6 pupils were already showing the benefits of this approach, however it was clear that to prepare them for the demands of the SATs we needed to do more.

Looking for expert guidance on teaching Year 6 Maths in the run up to SATs?

SATS PRACTICE & PAPERS free

Year 6 Maths Catch-up and Revision Guide

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2. Regular arithmetic practice – the silver bullet to dramatically improved KS2 SATs results

Many teachers had talked about how their pupils had achieved ARE (age related expectations) because they had very high scores on the arithmetic paper so this was where I decided to start.

For more on this see the blog post on why arithmetic is key to SATs success and how to embed it in your school)

I introduced daily ‘Mastery Time’, where pupils would practise arithmetic and I would teach any pupils who weren’t secure. Following a carousel approach, each child would practise their target area through online games (I used Maths Frame), general practice and a teacher or LSA guided group.

Download progression weeks for Year 3-6 of free KS2 daily arithmetic practice here.

We also introduced ‘Times Table Tracker’ taken from www.mrspteach.com as a whole school approach, which has had a huge impact on pupils’ fluency in multiplication and division facts.

An example of the timetable I used can be seen here:

It is worth noting that although I always sat pupils in mixed ability during the mastery sessions, (see here for more on this debate) I grouped them onto tables for organisational purposes. There was also an extra tray of ‘deepening’ tasks for any pupils who were secure in all areas.

For free, mixed ability Maths resources to use in your own class, try these low threshold, high ceiling tasks.

Arithmetic builds confidence too!

The impact of this approach was huge. The children quickly became secure and confident in all areas of arithmetic and this began to have a powerful impact on their reasoning and problem solving skills.

They could focus on unpicking the question and answering it, rather than trying to remember ‘how’ to do the calculation required (which was particularly powerful for those children with SEN resulting in working memory issues).

As the weeks passed, their scores went up and up. The majority of the class were scoring well above 30 in our practice KS2 SATs Papers and many were getting full marks. The biggest change though, was to their confidence – they were happy to tackle anything I threw at them.

This focus on regular arithmetic was so successful that we have adapted the approach across all year groups for this year.

3. Focused 1-to-1 tuition from Third Space Learning transformed the SATs results for target ‘borderline’ pupils

As a school, we are very proud of the broad and balanced curriculum our pupils receive and we were adamant that Year 6 would not be exposed to a dull and narrow curriculum (no matter what their results were).

With that in mind we planned one afternoon a week where all children would have booster lessons and the rest of the time it was business as usual. There were no before or after school boosters.

Here’s how we managed those boosters. With a class of 23 and a high number of pupil premium (43% of the class), we picked 8 children, who were either pupil premium or in danger of not being able to cope with the demands of the reasoning papers and booked them for the intensive support of the Maths specialists that Third Space provides.

They then received weekly 1-to-1 Maths lessons online with a focus on unpicking and solving SATs style reasoning and problem solving questions.

Here’s more detail on the process Third Space Learning follows to prepare Year 6 pupils to achieve 100 in their KS2 SATs in Maths

With these pupils taken care of, requiring only a TA to supervise their lessons, I was free to concentrate on the remaining 15 children.

I followed a similar approach to Third Space tutors with the rest of the class. All the Third Space resources were available to download and use, so I could work through the revision activities focusing on reasoning.

My TA and an additional teacher also used the materials to work with SEN pupils and those working at greater depth.

If you want to learn more about how to structure Maths interventions, read this blog post on the most effective Maths strategies to use at KS2 (with a free downloadable guide)

Impact of the Third Space Learning KS2 SATs booster lessons in Maths

The children really valued the opportunity to work at their own pace and every week I would assign the lessons, focusing on what each child needed. The impact of the sessions quickly started to show in Maths lessons; children who had previously been known to ask for help before even trying were happily tackling problems with resilience and enthusiasm.

The sessions were a resounding success for everyone. All 8 children who had the 1-to-1 sessions achieved ARE in the Maths SATs and while their arithmetic scores were high, so were their reasoning scores.

To see how these interventions could help get your pupils SATs ready, book a demo with Third Space Learning here.

And then we changed our pupils’ attitudes

Without a doubt, our emphasis on regular, structured arithmetic practice and effective interventions significantly improved our results this year.

However, another major factor in the pupils’ success was the change in their mindset. I made sure that our class lived and breathed a growth mindset ethos so that there was not one child who doubted their ability (I highly recommend reading Jo Boaler’s Mathematical Mindsets or getting practical tips on developing growth mindset here).

Our mantra was ‘great Maths is not fast Maths’ and through creating variations of the sorts of problems Third Space Learning use (download free problem solving packs here), I gave pupils plenty of opportunities to have short bursts of practice answering different types of questions without spending hours doing practice papers.   

So how are going to improve KS2 SATs results in Maths in 2018?

I’d love to say this year was a breeze and our results came easily. They didn’t. I had to take a relentless approach to assessing and target setting. But I’m proud that the children in my class weren’t affected by this. Next year’s cohort are already benefiting from the expert support of 1-to-1 Maths interventions with Third Space and we will use the same approach with them.

Every cohort is different; you can be top of the league tables one minute and down the next. But for now we are going to enjoy what has been a great year of Maths for us, and just do more of what we’ve done, but with even more vigour!

To finish off, here’s more detailed insight into what we now know about the KS2 SATs results for Maths in 2017 and the topics and types of questions that came up so you can plan your own Year 6 SATs revision for 2018.

Rebecca Jakes , Woodcot Primary School , Year 6 Teacher & Maths Leader

Rebecca Jakes is Year 6 Teacher and Maths Leader at Woodcot Primary School, Gosport and runs ‘growteach’ Independent Teaching and Learning Support.