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Martin Bamber, AC for Cheshire West, Chester, Halton, Knowsley, Liverpool, Sefton, St Helens, Warrington, Wigan, and Wirral

When I trained as a teacher some 30 years ago, I was fortunate to have the opportunity to work with a Year 12 maths group for several weeks as part of my teaching practice. Such experiences are relatively rare these days, although the demand amongst trainee teachers is a strong as ever.

Following discussions about how this could be addressed within the constraints of greatly compressed subject teaching days in ITT provision, a plan was developed to involve trainee teachers from two institutions – Liverpool John Moores University and Chester University – in a Year 12 enrichment event. The aim of these events is to engage students with problem-solving activities that directly relate to their programme of study. Students might view their activities as ‘revision’, or they might see them as a new way of learning, but in either case they should see a direct benefit upon their conceptual understanding. We deliberately targeted students who felt in some way overwhelmed by A level Mathematics, although the content was tailored to be beneficial to any level of prior attainment.

Two key features of the event have proved particularly successful: small group activities, and careful briefing in advance. The training institutions set aside a half-day for trainees to prepare (using suggested resources) and to ask questions to ensure they are thoroughly familiar with all aspects of the problems used. Less confident trainees could pair up with a colleague for the subsequent event, in which students are placed in small groups of typically 4–6. During the event, each session is introduced very briefly for 5 minutes or less; apart from that, no whole group teaching is offered, only small group activity with abundant opportunities for questioning. The day commences with the tried and tested Roadshow puzzles and concludes with a whole group competition.

Similar formats have been successfully attempted using Year 13 students supporting younger students in small groups, with the same attention to prior preparation being essential. It seems to work!

For more details about this initiative, including suggested resources, please email Martin Bamber.

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