We’ve had lots of great feedback about our new five-year scheme of learning for secondary schools – thank you very much!

One of the more surprising comments we’ve heard a few times is “You’re very brave to start with algebra!”  We thought we’d write this short blog to explain why we chose an algebraic topic, and why teachers like ourselves shouldn’t be worried about it.

It’s new

Students will have met a little algebra towards the end of their time at primary school, but not that much.  We think it’s an exciting way to start secondary school with a relatively new area of mathematics – a fresh start, a fresh challenge and a level playing field for all.

It’s not number

Number is at the heart of mathematics and our new schemes reflect this.  We also recognise that our primary partners have done a tremendous job in developing students’ number skills and this doesn’t have to be the first focus, or the main focus, of starting Year 7.

Whilst out first block of work does include learning to understand and use algebraic notation, the focus isn’t all about procedures and routines.  We want students to think like mathematicians as well as do mathematics and the tasks we recommend will encourage them to think, describe, reason, visualise, spot patterns, generalise and experiment.  The work on sequences at the start is an example of this – it’s not about finding the rule for the nth term, it’s about appreciating how and why sequences of patterns and numbers grow and change, looking for and describing similarities and differences. See our example lesson to see one possible way of introducing the unit.

It gets the calculators out

Students no longer have a calculator paper at Key Stage 2 and therefore have less experience with using calculators than they used to. We believe calculator skills should be taught by maths teachers, and algebra is a great vehicle to get this going right at the start of Y7. There’s little point in solving equations like x + 3 = 7, which can be solved by “spotting” the answer. We recommend questions like x + 38.7 = 245.1 which will require an understanding of inverse operations and can be accessed by all students, whatever their attainment in arithmetic skills, with the aid of a calculator.  We can also informally discuss estimation at the same time.

Most of all, it’s fun!

We want students to enjoy mathematics, and we think the pattern searching and testing conjectures that early algebra involves can be highly motivating.  Download our small steps guidance for algebra for examples of activities that we think will get the students thinking algebraically and enjoying the challenge of mathematics.  This guidance now covers the whole of the first half-term for Autumn.

We hope you understand and agree with our rationale for starting with algebra and look forward to your continuing feedback.

We are very excited to launch our new five-year secondary curriculum plans.  There has been a great response already to the pre-release material, and lots of thoughtful questions.  The statements below are designed to explain our thinking and to let you know what the next steps are.

Why change the scheme of learning?

We are always working closely with our partner schools, and have been listening carefully to their feedback.  This new scheme takes on board ideas from the teachers who have been using our old scheme for the last few years.  Many features will stay the same – such as spending longer on topics and keeping number at the heart of the curriculum – but we will also be incorporating what we have learned.

What are the main changes?

• Using the current scheme, some teachers have found it difficult to cater for the differences in attainment in their schools when students start in Year 7. This new scheme aims to be a curriculum that works for all, taking into account the prior learning at primary school and that much of the KS3 national curriculum is not “new” to many students.  The scheme aims to build on this prior learning, recognising that some will be able to move faster through the content than others.
• The new scheme also covers all five years of secondary schooling right up to the end of GCSE.
• Calculators and estimation will be explicitly embedded throughout, alongside other technologies.
• Interleaving of topics already studied to aid revision/recall/spaced learning will be heavily emphasised and exemplified. We will not be returning to a “spiral” curriculum, but we do acknowledge the need for revisiting key concepts regularly.
• To aid this, units will be less strictly defined as “number” or “data” – for example, Year 7s will first meet the median and range when looking at ordering numbers.

So will there be different schemes for different levels of attainment?

The scheme will be formed of two closely related overlapping strands, carefully designed both to maximise progression and allow flexibility. These will be:

Foundation – by the end of Year 11, the Foundation strand will cover all of the content in the Foundation GCSE, allowing students to attain a grade 5.

Higher – all of the Higher level GCSE content is covered, allowing access for students all the way to Grade 9.

Some content will inevitably be met in the Higher strand earlier than in the Foundation strand.  For those students not yet attaining as highly as their peers, there will be more time for consolidating and revisiting concepts before rushing on to new content.

Can a student move between strands?

Absolutely – we don’t want to put a limit on any student or any class.  We expect that many students working on Foundation in some areas may well access the Higher objectives in others and encourage teachers to be flexible in choosing how and what they cover with each class.  In the longer term, we hope to create intervention packages to help students who may have been following one strand for a long time to move onto another.

Many of our Year 7 students enter with scaled scores just over 100.  Which strand should we start them on?

We will not be making recommendations as to who should follow each strand.  We believe that almost all students will be able to access the vast majority of the first few units of work and from that, teachers will respond to their students’ needs to decide how far to take each new topic.

We felt that rather than the traditional starting with number, algebra would be something relatively new for students to launch their secondary careers as there is not much algebra in Key Stage 2.  Our focus is on algebraic thinking, starting with an exploration of sequences, both diagrams and numbers, that should engage and excite students.  We also want calculators to be available throughout this unit so that maths teachers teach them calculator skills and everyone can access e.g. substitution, inverse operations and sequences whatever their previous attainment in number.

When will the full detailed scheme be available?

The outline plans for all five years are available now, alongside the “small steps” for the Autumn term of Year 7 and detailed guidance for the “small steps” for the first week. More materials for the Autumn term will be published next week, with the rest of Year 7 released in October.  Year 8 will follow towards the end of next year.  Years 8 and 9 will be fully available in 2019/20 with Years 10 and 11 following in 2020/21.

What is a “small step”?

Our “small steps” are designed to provide some brief guidance to help teachers understand the key points leading towards National Curriculum objectives.  This has been written by teachers for teachers and includes key vocabulary, key questions, and exemplar questions, that integrate reasoning and problem solving throughout.

How much does it cost?

The schemes of learning and small steps guidance are entirely free of charge.

What supporting resources will be available?

We will also provide some exemplar lessons free of charge.  In time we will be offering CPD and resource packages for those schools wanting additional material and support.  These will be available at a reasonable price to ensure they are accessible to all that want or need them.

Could we start the Key Stage 4 version with our new Year 10 in September?

The Year 10 and 11 schemes cover the whole of the Key Stage 4 content, with Key Stage 3 content as assumed knowledge.  However, much of the Key Stage 3 content will be revisited as the basis for new material, especially so in the Foundation strand – so yes this is possible, although the supporting material will not be available for some time yet – see above.

Will it all change again next year, and the year after, and the year after?!

We believe that schemes of learning should be living, responsive documents and we expect that as this goes through its first live run-through there will be a need to make tweaks here and there as we continue to learn and improve.  We are all practising teachers and will use our findings and feedback to keep developing the scheme.  That being said, this is version 2.0 and we expect any future changes to be minor – more like 2.0s rather than 3.0…if you’d like to think of it as a well-known phone!

I have more questions!  Who do I contact with these?

Please do pass your queries on to us via support@whiterosemaths.com and although we can’t promise to reply to everyone individually (as we’re busy developing more and more material for the scheme) we will produce another FAQs blog as soon as is practical in response to your questions.

White Rose Maths is pleased to announce exciting new developments for 2018/19

As always we have listened to your requests and feedback and we have tried to deliver on as many of them as possible.

Small Changes – Primary Scheme Update

The primary schemes are staying as they are.  There are no changes to the order.  There will be some minor upgrades to the materials and we will collate the whole schemes into whole year documents for those that want it in one place.

Supporting the Primary Schemes – Mini Assessments and Interactive Whiteboard Files

To sit alongside the schemes of learning we have produced a series of Activ Inspire and Smart Notebook files that contain the images and templates from our schemes, so that you can use them at the front of class.  These will be released very shortly.

In addition we are releasing a set of FREE mini-assessments for Y1 – Y6.  These will be short assessments that teachers can use at the end of each block to inform them of their children’s understanding.  These assessments are not designed be formal like our end of term ones, however schools can choose to use them how they would like.

Worried about printing costs?  From September our assessments will be available to buy printed and delivered to your door.  We can pass on the benefit of printing in bulk to schools, saving you money and time.

The wait is over – The new Secondary Schemes have arrived

The release of our brand new secondary schemes of learning is imminent.  You may have seen the recent Twitter and Facebook activity around the release.  The schemes have had a full overhaul.

The main differences are:

• Using the current scheme, some teachers have found it difficult to cater for the differences in attainment in their schools when students start in Year 7. This new scheme aims to be a curriculum that works for all, taking into account the prior learning at primary school and that much of the KS3 national curriculum is not “new” to many students.  The scheme aims to build on this prior learning, recognising that some will be able to move faster through the content than others.
• The new scheme also covers all five years of secondary schooling right up to the end of GCSE.
• Similarly to our Primary schemes of learning, a ‘small steps’ breakdown will be provided to support teachers’ planning.
• Interleaving of topics already studied to aid revision/recall/spaced learning will be heavily emphasised and exemplified. We will not be returning to a “spiral” curriculum, but we do acknowledge the need for revisiting key concepts regularly.

Beyond the Schemes

We have grown our CPD offer considerably this year and it will continue to grow as we move into 2018/19.  Particularly for secondary teachers, we will be providing professional development packages to support the implementation of our schemes of learning.

To be kept up to date with the release of these materials and latest training please sign up to our newsletter.  You will be the first to be informed about all our new exciting developments including those on EYFS and assessment.