One curriculum that works for all: Using the WRM schemes with pupils with SEND

Welcome to the third in our series of blogs about how the White Rose Maths schemes relate to the 2019 Ofsted Framework. The first blog looked at the overall curriculum, the second blog looked at the sequencing of our primary and secondary curricula, and this considers the issue of SEND.


In judging the quality of education, inspectors will evaluate the extent to which ‘leaders take on or construct a curriculum that is ambitious and designed to give all learners, particularly the most disadvantaged and those with special educational needs and/or disabilities (SEND) or high needs, the knowledge and cultural capital they need to succeed in life’. Since its inception, White Rose Maths has had the motto #MathsEveryoneCan. We believe that everyone, no matter what their starting point is, can learn and improve at maths and so we welcome the increased focus on pupils with SEND in the 2019 Ofsted Framework.

Is the White Rose Maths curriculum ambitious?

At each key stage, the White Rose Maths curriculum covers the whole of the content of the 2014 National Curriculum. More than this, our scheme of learning is designed to support the development of reasoning and problem solving alongside fluency to ensure challenge and ambition for all pupils.

But what does ‘ambitious’ mean in the context of pupils with SEND?

This will clearly depend on individuals’ needs. We need to remember also that pupils with SEND are not always low attainers, so for some it will be the usual curriculum with additional resources suitable for meeting their particular needs. If some other pupils are operating one or two years behind the expectations for their year group then schools will need to consider what is realistic for these pupils, given their needs, in terms of catching up and keeping up. Is it sufficiently ambitious to aim for pupils to remain two years behind? Or could they, with appropriate support, catch up over the next term, year or key stage? Schools should know their individual pupils and their needs well enough to define and demonstrate what is ambitious for each individual, and what measures they are putting in place to help pupils meet these goals. The small steps structure, the progression documents and the assessments that underpin the White Rose Maths curriculum will help teachers to identify gaps. They can then take steps to support all pupils to make progress, perhaps by using material or structures from earlier year groups.

But surely some pupils’ needs are more than just mathematical?

Absolutely. Some pupils may also need the support of speech therapists, educational psychologists and/or many other specialists to have their needs met; the White Rose Maths curriculum is only one element of the support schools and their partners already provide.

So what specific support does the White Rose Maths curriculum give to schools, teachers and pupils with SEND?

A key aim of the White Rose Maths scheme of learning is to be inclusive for all pupils. In both primary and secondary, we encourage the use of one curriculum that works for all, with everybody studying the same topic and being provided with support and challenge as needed. Many of the teaching strategies we advocate for all pupils are particularly useful for pupils with SEND. For example:

Using concrete and pictorial representations
Our materials are replete with examples in all year groups to develop these strategies to deepen and embed understanding. For many pupils, the CPA approach is a ‘way in’ to a topic whilst also it can be challenge for pupils to find an alternative representation to the ones they already have.

Here are just a few examples of equipment we recommend all pupils have access to, to support and stretch their understanding.

It is very beneficial for the teacher modelling the use of manipulatives at the start of a topic to make it clear that the resources are suitable for those who still need them later on.

Revisiting and reminding
As discussed in our last blog, we have designed the curriculum to include multiple opportunities to look at topics again in new contexts. This enables teachers to support students who have struggled with a topic to spend more time reconsidering and developing their understanding. Also, our premium resources Flashback 4 activities are ideal to assess what has been learnt and what might need an intervention.

Plan for misconceptions
Our schemes of learning include many examples of where pupils could go wrong, challenging the pupils to spot, explain and rectify errors. Pupils’ responses to these prompts helps teachers to identify and tackle misunderstandings early on rather than let these incorrect ideas become established in pupils’ minds. Read our Mathematical Misconceptions blog for further insight.

Use of technology
Our interactive whiteboard files are very useful both in providing visual stimuli (supporting the concrete and pictorial approach discussed above) and allowing pupils to directly interact with the material whilst learning new concepts. Similarly our secondary curriculum points to many areas where the use of programs such as dynamic geometry software will help pupils to see and understand the mathematics, and our reception schemes links to useful websites for teachers and pupils to use. Our professional development training also contains many references and support for the use of technology.

What other suggestions do you have?

Knowledge of precursors
The notes and guidance we provide for our small steps often include indicators of what pupils need to have covered before in order to access a step. Incorporating revisiting these before a topic is taught, for example, remind the pupils about multiplying and dividing by 10 and 100 before upcoming lessons on metric conversions. They will then have less to think about when covering the metric conversions…which brings us to the next point!

Awareness of cognitive overload
When teaching, we need to consider the key aim or aims of a lesson. If the focus of a lesson is understanding that the area of a rectangle is found by multiplying the length by the width, then providing pupils with times-tables grids or calculators will help them to focus on this rather than struggling with the mechanics of the calculations if these are an obstacle. We strongly recommend this strategy throughout our secondary schemes (for example when introducing algebra) and there is a strong case for using this approach at primary level too.

Going through some key ideas with pupils in short targeted sessions before the topic is taught enables them to have a head start and be prepared for what’s coming up often hugely increasing confidence and participation at the start of a topic.

Finally, providing additional out-of-class support after lessons can help to close gaps and/or deepen understanding. It may again be useful to look back at previous years’ steps to support this.

What about differentiation?

The Ofsted framework talks about ‘teachers present subject matter clearly…they respond and adapt their teaching as necessary, without unnecessarily elaborate or differentiated approaches’. We agree with the mastery principle that pupils should broadly move through the curriculum at the same pace. As far as possible, pupils should stay together on the same topic with necessary differentiation such as removing barriers and providing targeted support, but without the need for many different levels of worksheet for every single step. Our schemes include examples of ‘low floor, high ceiling tasks’ that support this approach to differentiation together with reasoning and problem solving questions that will challenge all pupils and allow the ‘quicker graspers’ to look at the maths in greater depth.

I still have more questions!

There is still one more blog to come in this series! We will shortly be releasing the final instalment, looking at teacher workload. In the meantime, If you have any questions about the contents of this blog, or anything else related to our curriculum provision, please email us at We cannot promise to answer all questions individually (but we will try!), and the most frequently asked questions will be answered in a future blog if needed.

We’ve had several queries recently asking how we chose the order for the topics in the White Rose Maths curriculum. We touched on this briefly in our 2019 Ofsted Framework blog, and this blog looks in more detail about the sequencing and the decision making involved in both our primary and secondary curricula, and also looks at how this ordering helps pupils to learn and remember.

The basic principles

The fundamental idea behind our curriculum design is to support pupils to be able to perform simpler tasks so they can then move on to perform more complex tasks. For example, we cannot expect pupils to add two numbers together before they understand what each individual number represents.

This thinking gives rise to a typical sequence of ‘blocks’ of mathematics that you will see in most of our year groups.


Within each of these blocks we then have ‘small steps’ which are again sequenced in order of difficulty and dependency. Here are the first seven steps (of 18) in our Year 3 Addition and Subtraction block:

As you can see, nothing is left to chance – each step builds carefully from the previous step, building on pupils’ prior knowledge to develop new skills, with nothing left out. Pupils are ready for this having covered addition with 2-digit numbers in Year 2 and Place Value up to 1,000 in the first block of Year 3.

Similarly, here are first few steps of our Year 8 Fractions and Percentages block:

We start with “review steps”. This is material that will have been covered in KS2 or Year 7. Teachers can use their knowledge of their classes to decide how and when to cover these and then move on to the KS3 material, again building up slowly and ensuring that pupils can become fluent with both calculator and non-calculator methods.

So are “review steps” what the WRM curriculum uses to help pupils to learn and remember?
We only use review steps in our Secondary curriculum, and they are only one part of the story! Our curriculum is designed to use skills that have already been learnt in different contexts (sometimes called ‘interleaving’) whenever we can. This helps pupils to remember and to make connections between different parts of the curriculum.

Taking the Year 3 example, after the Addition and Subtraction block, pupils will revisit and practice these skills again in these blocks later in the year:

  • Multiplication and Division
  • Money
  • Length and Perimeter
  • Mass and Capacity

…and then they are built on and extended in Year 4 and beyond.

Likewise in Year 8, fractions and percentages will feature in:

  • Standard index form
  • Area of trapezia and circles
  • The data handling cycle

…before being built on and extend in Year 9 and beyond.

We try to include this revisiting in our example questions, and also in the worksheets that accompany our small steps available with our Premium Resources subscription. The subscription also includes other useful resources to help pupils remember:

  • Flashback 4 – a daily starter activity consisting of one question each from a topic covered last lesson, last week, two or three weeks ago and last term or last year
  • True of False – a question for each step that can be used whenever the teacher wants to bring that topic back to the front of pupils’ minds

So…is the White Rose curriculum ‘mastery’ or ‘spiral’?
Sometimes educational debate can be very divided into ‘black or white’ positions such as ‘traditional’ or ‘progressive’ teaching, ‘conceptual’ versus ‘procedural’ learning and, of course, ‘mastery’ or ‘spiral’ curricula. Often there are good points to both sides of any argument, and there is need for a more nuanced and balanced approach.

We’ve tried to combine the best of both ‘mastery’ and ‘spiral’ approaches in our curriculum. It certainly follows many of the mastery principles – spending longer on topics to help gain deeper understanding, making connections, keeping the class working together on the same topic and a fundamental belief that, through effort, all pupils are capable of understanding, doing and improving at mathematics. But we also recognise that just spending a good chunk of time on a topic doesn’t mean that all pupils will ‘master’ it the first time they see it, and that they need to see it again and again in different contexts and in different years to help them truly develop their understanding on their journey to mastery, so we’ve built in the revisiting and reinforcing features of spiral curricula too.

And going back to the order, is it all to do with one topic depending on another?
Mainly, but not entirely. For example, it doesn’t really matter whether angles is taught before statistics or the other way round, so for these more ‘stand-alone’ topics (they all have some dependency, e.g. on number, if not on each other) we try to organise these to give as varied a curriculum as possible. We also try to avoid one topic always being at the end of Summer term, or similar, to minimise the chance of something not being covered.

What about the order of fluency, reasoning and problem solving?
These key components of learning mathematics are included in all our small steps. We certainly don’t advocate that all the fluency in a block is done first, then the reasoning and then the problem solving. We believe these should be integrated into classroom practice as much as possible in the order that is appropriate for the step, e.g. the process of division may be introduced by a problem about sharing or grouping for which we need to become fluent at the procedure.

I have more questions!
Don’t worry, we have more blogs! Coming up over the next few weeks will be looking at:

  • Supporting SEND pupils
  • Reducing teacher workload

If you have any questions about the contents of this blog, or anything else related to our curriculum provision, please email us at We cannot promise to answer all questions individually (but we will try!), and the most frequently asked questions will be answered in the upcoming blogs.