Differentiating maths learning at Heston Primary

Sarah Brooks, Maths Leads and Teacher

Heston Primary School in greater London has 450 pupils aged between 3-11. Our school is a great place to learn, achieve and flourish. It provides a happy, safe and supportive environment, where everyone feels valued. We are committed to helping every child excel and reach their potential academically and in extracurricular activities.

Furthermore, we aim to instil a strong moral compass, enabling them to act ethically and honourably.
During the second lockdown (in 2021), we trialled Whizz Education’s virtual tutor Maths-Whizz for children of key workers who still attended school. We noticed they were making great progress and everyday learning was being enhanced. Following discussion with our school governors, who were very supportive, we agreed to extend the benefits of Maths-Whizz to every child at Heston Primary.

One of the keys to the success of Maths-Whizz implementation is to ensure engagement from all the teachers, teaching assistants, parents and children. I took this on as part of my maths lead role to ensure we maximised our investment in this innovative solution.

Whizz Education delivered staff training and also sessions for parents to ensure familiarity with the system. We repeated this at the start of the next academic year so all new staff could learn about Maths-Whizz and the sessions offered a refresher and more insight for our other experienced team members. Training is followed up with informal conversations and discussions between staff members to keep engagement with Maths-Whizz a priority.

There is variation between year groups, but we aim to timetable an hour per week use of Maths-Whizz within teaching time. Children and their parents also all have a log in so can access the programme from home for set homework or as an optional extra.

As Maths-Whizz can be accessed from any device most families have the facility for children to access the programme from home. However, we did loan equipment during the lockdown to more vulnerable families and children and now, they can always come and use the school’s computers during lunchtime or before school.

We have found the monitoring aspect of the virtual tutor very useful. It enables us to identify discrepancies or learning gaps between classes and also individuals. Maths-Whizz automatically identifies any weaknesses – for example with number bonds – and the programme helps address this until fluency is achieved.

Our teachers can use Maths-Whizz to reinforce any classroom content or to zone in on a topic focus. Due to the challenges of missed class time during the pandemic, we were able to prioritise areas of the curriculum using the virtual tutor to focus on the ‘four operations’ (addition, subtraction, division and multiplication). We were concerned that not all children were able to access the Zoom sessions in lockdown and decided that we needed a programme that would engage and support these pupils should
they need to access home learning again. The monitoring feature of Maths-Whizz has enabled us to differentiate and see who is making progress and who needs more support.

We ensured our teaching assistants joined the training sessions so, now everyone is back at school, they can step in where necessary and sit with a child who’s struggling in the classroom. That intervention time can help them make progress.

One of the great things about the virtual tutor is that it’s fun! Children enjoy working through the levels and there are lots of appealing features like avatars, jewels and an online shop. Whizz Education also provides plenty of additional resources for example some of our children got involved in the company’s Summer Challenge. This kept skills simmering over the summer months and several pupils earned a ‘golden ticket’ prize to access an online workshop. Working with Whizz Education has enabled us to
create enthusiasm for engagement in maths within our school.

The Maths-Whizz virtual tutor is now an effective and important part of our toolkit. We are able to use baseline information such as Maths Age in reports which are easy for parents to understand. They can also log in and see how well their children are progressing. In this way, it offers reporting for parents too.
Overall, we are very happy with our investment in Maths-Whizz. Financially it is worthwhile. Everyone has gaps in their learning and Maths-Whizz helps us identify and proactively address those gaps to ensure skills are enhanced. We would definitely recommend Maths-Whizz. In fact, a number of our teachers have suggested the solution to their families and now several staff members’ nieces and nephews now have Maths-Whizz at home too!