The RM Group
Published 30 April 2009

Liverpool Local Authority use RM Maths to help under-performing pupils

Liverpool LA ran a project with selected schools to look at Year 6 pupils who were under-performing in maths to see if their performance could be improved through the use of RM Maths and targeted support. The focus was on helping pupils reach their full potential by building their confidence and enjoyment of maths to subsequently improve attainment.

As we will see, this project has been a resounding success...

Why RM Maths?

Julie Cooke, Primary Maths Consultant at Liverpool LA, attended a workshop where RM Maths was demonstrated at the initial training provided for schools taking part in the Becta Primary Proof of Concept Project. This project took six schools in each of five LAs (Derbyshire, Liverpool, Sheffield, Manchester, and Greenwich) and asked them to trial mathematics software under the Intensifying Support element of the Strategy.

"I could see the potential of RM Maths for personalised learning because the daily 15 minutes of individualised maths support that it gives keeps pupils' maths skills simmering whilst the teacher moves on to other areas of maths" Julie says. "There were several things I liked about the software - from practical things like children not being able to click out of it, the fact that it has full audio support meaning that progress does not depend on reading ability, to the wealth of information available in the diagnostic reports."

"Good intervention relies on a good understanding of which specific areas the children need to develop. A bit like a doctor - if you get the diagnosis right, it is a lot easier to prescribe the correct medicine that will make an improvement. There are a lot of forms of intervention for schools and if too many are taken on board impact can be lost. The idea was that RM Maths could support teachers to make a better 'diagnosis' then as part of the project Primary Maths Consultants could support teachers and teaching assistants in providing 'the medicine'."

Getting started

Julie started using RM Maths with a few schools, focusing on looked-after children (LAC). Feedback from teachers showed that otherwise disengaged pupils really enjoying using RM Maths; their confidence and self-esteem building and for some pupils an improvement in their attainment. This mirrors the experience of Camilla Batmanghelidjh, Director of Kids Company, who, whilst speaking at BETT07 about her work with vulnerable pupils, commented that technology could be a way-in to help educate some of these pupils as there was no emotional attachment involved.

The following year, with more funding available, Julie was able to develop the RM Maths Project. Twelve schools from across the authority initially took part in the project and were provided with everything that they needed to get started. It was decided to keep the target group small in each school so that there was the capacity for the pupils to use it every day as well as for regular intervention/support in areas highlighted as a development need in the RM Maths reports. Therefore, each school identified just six under-performing pupils - some schools looked at their whole Year 6 cohort whereas others looked more specifically at under-performing more able boys.

The project ran as a two year cycle, involving just Year 6 in the first year. There was initial training for a Year 6 teacher and teaching assistant per school as well as three review ½ days and support in school. Key subject knowledge areas highlighted as areas for staff development were covered in sessions during the review days. In the second year, Year 5 staff were also offered training and at the same time an additional 18 schools joined the project.

What impact did the use of RM Maths have?

There were variations between the schools involved in the project in relation to the amount of time pupils used RM Maths. However, on average pupils had access to approximately 20 hours of RM Maths support or 80 sessions.

Pupils' maths skills clearly improved over the course of the project with 57% of pupils progressing one whole National Curriculum level or more and eight pupils progressed a fantastic five sub-levels. Overall, 86% of pupils progressed two or more sub-levels.

Prior to the project, schools had predicted that all the pupils selected to take part would not make two levels progress from Key Stage 1 to Key Stage 2. However, following the project 58% of pupils made at least two levels progress (six or more sub-levels) from Key Stage 1 to Key Stage 2 with six pupils making eight sub-levels progress. Staggeringly, some pupils who had only made one sub-level progress from the end of Year 2 to the end of Year 5 went on to make two or three levels of progress in Year 6.

As you can see, RM Maths has had an impressive impact on pupil attainment but what do pupils themselves think about it? The results of a pupil survey are shown below:

 

Responded 'Yes'

Do you like using RM Maths?

83%

Would you recommend RM Maths to a friend?

88%

Do you think RM Maths has helped you become better at maths?

95%

Do you feel more confident in class?

89%

Do you have enough time to answer questions?

79%

What score would you give RM Maths? (Out of 10)

8 out of 10

And do their teachers agree? The results of a survey of the teachers who took part in the project are summarised as follows:

Responded 'Yes'

Has using the software had a positive impact on pupils' self-esteem?

100%

Has using the software increased pupils' confidence?

100%

Have the pupils' attitudes to mathematics improved?

100%

Have you seen an improvement in their understanding and use of mathematical language?

100%

Do you find the reports in the Teacher's Program useful?

100%

Do the pupils receive any form of intervention in response to the 'Problems' report?

82%


A very positive response indeed!

This is what Maria Cullen, Maths Subject Leader at Our Lady and St. Philomena's Primary School found:

"One of the children enjoyed RM Maths so much that they said that they had spent the whole weekend looking for RM Maths on the internet. Other children have said that some of the maths that they had found difficult previously, had become easier since using RM Maths. When being introduced to or revisiting maths objectives in class some pupils had remembered them from RM Maths and felt much more confident answering questions in class."

Overall, the experience of the schools involved in this project is summed up in the words of David Potter, Subject Leader and Year 6 teacher at Middlefield Community Primary School:

"RM Maths has been a fantastic initiative for our school. The Year 6 children who have taken part over the last three years have benefited enormously. Children's confidence and self esteem in Numeracy have been boosted, and they have really enjoyed the daily sessions. Our SAT's results are proof of the impact RM Maths has made in our school."

Where next for RM Maths in Liverpool LA?

Julie is also pleased with the way the project has progressed - "We were interested in pupil progress and narrowing the gap - pupils reaching their potential - not just attainment. Initially the project looked at under-performing more able pupils, then under-performing pupils, but the schools have also used RM Maths to support any group of children they felt would benefit most: LAC, Traveller, SEN, EAL, dependent on the school's needs and capacity. We just asked that they had a focus group so they could be monitored carefully and regular intervention provided."

Thirty schools have been involved directly in the project and other schools in Liverpool have been following its progress closely. Many of these schools have also purchased RM Maths - in fact, to date, 60 schools in Liverpool LA now have RM Maths meaning that there is huge potential for supporting many more pupils.

"The schools that we have supported as consultants as part of the project are continuing to use RM Maths in the manner of the project and will continue to keep track of pupils. We set the project up with the intention that it would be sustainable when support was withdrawn and in most schools this is the case as it is now embedded as good practice and an effective form of intervention."

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