Sunday, 5 February 2017

Interventions, Interventions!

It's been a while since my last post, way back in October after the #MathsMeet I organised. A lot has been going on since, at school; focused on Y11 interventions, hence the title to this post.
I thought it would be useful to highlight what we're doing with our Y11s and what is/isn't working (in my opinion).

Since the end of Y10 the year group were put into different tutor groups, based on their needs following their Y10 mock exams. These tutor groups are with specific teachers based on their subject that were already in the Y10 tutor team. There is a Maths, English, Science, 'aspirational', 'vocational' and then 2 'normal' tutor groups. The focus of these tutor groups is that twice a week they will come away from the normal tutor time schedule and focus on subject specific work. The students were placed into a tutor group based on their greatest need, following the results of their Y10 mocks and final report predictions. They stayed in these groups going into Y11 and have recently been rejigged based on the Y11 mocks and final reports and will now stay like this for the remainder of their time with us.
I, as Head of Maths, was not given a tutor group at the start of the year, but after the Y11 mocks it was decided that both myself and the Head of English would pick up a form of those students in our 'key groups' that needed additional support in either or both of the subjects.
As of the start of this term I was therefore given a group of 16 students that I now do Mathematics with every tutor time, except on Mondays when they have assembly. The head of English does similar with her tutor group. The other tutor groups now have slightly fewer students due to this creation of 2 additional groups.
So, there are now 2 tutor groups of students solely focusing on their Mathematics at least 2 days a week in form time. My colleague takes the other tutor group and is supported by another of our colleagues with that group.
With the group that I have, we do the daily foundation revision calendar questions created by @mrchadburn and this has been working well, with the students writing key facts/notes along with each daily solution in their exercise books I gave them. In addition to this, once we've finished with the daily question, they are given time to work through a pack of questions I printed for each, which includes a set of questions on every topic covered on the foundation GCSE. They are also given the opportunity to complete their Mathematics homework, classwork or to ask me any questions they have from what they have covered/revised individually.
Problems with the tutor group include low attendance from a few students placed in the group, meaning I've rarely seen them since the start of this term.
However, other than this, I personally think the group I have are benefiting from the extra time spent focusing on their Mathematics. I personally like now having the group. I missed having a form group, given that I had one previously for 3 years and enjoyed building the relations with the previous group I had, some of which I still hear from now and have seen at parents' evenings when they have accompanied their younger siblings. I've had e-mails from parents too to tell me they've passed their retakes and even a few of them have visited the school to say hi (it's always the ones you least expect that return to say hi)! These are the nice things the job brings that you otherwise miss from not being a form tutor - the little things that make a difference on a day that you're not as enjoying as much as the last; it's nice to know you're making a difference and that what you do is appreciated.
Hopefully, we will see an improvement from the mock results to the next assessment we do with the Y11s and will see some evidence that the extra sessions during tutor time are working.

In addition to the tutor groups, the students placed in both the Mathematics and English tutor groups have also been selected to be taken out of core PE (when it backs onto English or Maths) and to do an additional hour of one of the subjects. Some students are doing both and so are also being taken out of RE, which is then given back to them somewhere else in the timetable (I have no idea of the minutia behind all of the timetabling here, just when the Mathematics sessions are on)!
My colleague takes one side of the year for their double Mathematics lesson (1 lesson of their core PE and then the subsequent lesson where they would have normally had Maths) and another colleague (the deputy head) takes the other side of the year. We've only been doing these sessions for a week and have decided that they're not working as well as they could be due to the fact that 1) the students are begrudging missing their PE lesson and 2) can't cope with 2 hours of Maths back-to-back. So, I believe going forward they will be taken out of PE as per usual for the one hour and then go back to their normal Maths lesson with their normal teacher. Whether this actually solves the 2 problems above I'm not sure yet, but we'll see how it goes!

Like previous years we're also doing the usual after school sessions. These have changed in terms of what we've been doing in them. Before Christmas we were identifying students in our classes that were under performing based on their target grades and had them back with their class teachers working on specific work, chosen by the class teacher - just the fact we had them coming back and they were doing some Maths in addition to what they otherwise would have been doing was a start. Since the new year we have made these sessions far more specific with certain topics covered in each session after school on Mondays with certain members of staff in the department. We are each taken a couple of sessions each aimed at either Foundation or Higher tier students. The topics we chose were based on those topics that regularly come up in the exams (based on previous exams of course...no idea what will be the 'norm' come the new 1-9 GCSE)! Students were then chosen for these sessions based on who were still working below their target grades and needed the extra support, also those students that had missed some work or just had asked for extra help. These sessions are then repeated each Friday for any student in the year group that feels they need to work on Pythagoras or tree diagrams or whatever is being covered each week. The timetable of these sessions is sent to Y11 tutors and we give out reminders in our lessons as to what sessions are on each week, where and with what member of staff. We also have our faculty assistants print off reminder slips that are given to form tutors each morning to hand to students that are expected to attend the sessions on a Monday. This is happening in other subjects too especially English and Science.
All of these sessions and which students are required are kept centrally on the 'Intervention Bulletin' that one of our deputy heads collates and sends out each week. This avoids any clashes with subjects requiring the same student(s) on the same days. Maths and English are given priority.

I think that's it, well apart from the obvious teacher-led in-class day-to-day interventions, use of our TAs in department, etc.

It's a lot.

I think, for some students it's far too much, given that they are doing the same or expected to do the same in other subjects across the school too. It's overkill for some.
However, for certain students, it's what they need and have, in a few cases, asked for. They're motivated to attend everything they're asked to attend because they know they need help and want to be doing better. For one such student, we'll call him Bruce (because I recently watch Finding Nemo and find the shark funny), it is working wonders for him. He came to me prior to the mocks and was worried that he was struggling in the class he was in, he felt he was behind others and felt he knew nothing. He then moved into my class and was given the foundation paper for his mocks to hopefully build his confidence. He got a grade 5 on his mocks and has continued in my class, learning all the Higher topics that the class are still covering (we've still got too much to get through, but that's for another post)! He is in my Maths tutor group, he's in the timetabled intervention sessions, coming out of core PE and he's coming to every session after school. And, for him, it seems to be working. He's far more confident, he's coping with all the higher content we're covering and he will be sitting the Higher paper in his next assessment as a result.
It was even commented to me (and the Head, deputy heads, etc in a recent meeting) that Bruce wasn't looking forward to moving into my tutor group because he'd have to do maths every morning, and just simply liked the tutor group he was in previously. But, since he's been there he's really liking it and said 'that man's going to get me my GCSE', which made my day that day.

So, for some all these interventions can have a great effect on them and their confidence. But for others I wonder how much good it is doing and potentially how much harm it could be doing - some times too much of something isn't a good thing and they may be better off just being left to it themselves, but I don't think that would be 'allowed'?!

I do wonder if we did nothing whether it would be much different, in terms of the students outcomes, to what we are currently doing. Given the amount of effort put in by myself and my colleagues I do at times wonder if  it's all worth it? What if we did nothing. Other than just teach good lessons and offer the kids a time after school once a week to do some revision and get help. Trust them to do what they need to be doing for themselves, rather than make all these sessions compulsory and punish them every time they failed to attend, etc. The trouble is, how would we know for sure what did or didn't make the difference. Equally, if these sessions and interventions continue to be directed from above how do we ensure we pick the right students to be in each form of intervention, all of it or none at all. It's not a 'one size fits all'...they'll work for some and have no effect on others.

Fingers crossed for them all come May/June.