How King James Academy Supports Teachers To Achieve Better Learning Outcomes in Maths

Lorna Blackhurst , Deputy Head Teacher and Gordon Farquhar Head Teacher King James Academy

King James Academy Royston, Hertfordshire, is part of a large multi-academy trust which has worked with Whizz Education for many years.

King James Academy’s relationship with Whizz Education started in 2020 when we looked to support our teachers better to help them improve learning outcomes in maths. Maths brought down our combined assessment results in 2020, therefore, we decided to adopt a new approach. This included various changes as part of a bigger plan, one of which was working with Whizz Education.

As leading educationalists dedicated to helping schools improve learning outcomes in maths, Whizz Education was the perfect partner. We held initial meetings with Whizz Education to discuss our strategic goals, design our implementation plan and agree on targets. We also knew it was necessary to work with an EdTech tool with a proven record of success that was easy for staff and students to use, to produce maximum results with minimum input. The result was the creation of an educational plan that used the awarded-winning virtual tutor as an enabler to provide tailored and engaging maths lessons for each child, along with a library of teaching resources to support strategic lesson planning and delivery. The data output for the tech platform along with qualitative insights was used to draw tangible insights to ensure progress was being made and that we were meeting our target of 50% of children achieving ARE in maths within the academic year.

Initially, a teacher capacity building programme was arranged to up-skill staff to work with the blended learning programme; then, we piloted the virtual tutor for 12 weeks before enabling access for all 308 Key Stage 2 students across 12 Year Five and Six classes. We expected students to achieve three progressions per week using Maths Whizz, which equals just one hour per week as homework to support in-class teaching. Fortunately, we had worked closely with Whizz Education’s Education Success Partners to complete our implementation plan before the start of the second spring lockdown in 2021. This meant our teachers could deliver remote live lessons, with teachers assigning homework via Maths-Whizz, so our teaching provision was as ‘normal’ as possible.

The teachers’ resources and activity plans meant that children could build on topics they had studied in class to develop their maths fluency. As a result, Maths-Whizz became a vital part of our isolation provision. It was great to know that every homework session was purposeful and impacted learning outcomes positively during lockdown and when children returned to school. 

For the students, the virtual tutor itself is fun and engaging. They like the bright colours and avatars. It also automatically pitches work at the right level for the individual covering all the elements of the curriculum, enabling them to make progress tailored to their own pace and ability. They say: ‘it doesn’t feel like homework’ and the accessibility at the right level, rewards and competitions keep them motivated to succeed.

As well as innovative and creative resources such as trophies, certificates and a recent ‘Summer Challenge’ to encourage engagement, the data and support Whizz Education provides is particularly helpful. We are emailed weekly with an overview of the amount of quality learning time our students have spent on the tutor, which benchmarks us against other schools and provides specific highlights or areas which need attention. This may be where a group of students have struggled with a particular topic, for example. Our Whizz Education Success Partner can then provide strategies for our teachers to address this challenge and take targeted action in lessons to improve learning outcomes. This course correction approach is particularly beneficial. It doesn’t burden teachers but focuses on results, and it’s been very well received. Despite the challenges of delivering lessons during the pandemic, we’ve doubled the number of children meeting age related expectations (ARE). 

We made some significant changes to the way we approach maths at King James Academy. Working with Whizz Education has undoubtedly played an essential role in the improved learning outcomes achieved in maths over the past year. We believe for EdTech to work successfully, it needs to be included as part of a broader strategic plan tied to clear objectives. Data needs to be analysed, monitored and acted upon, enabling teachers to deliver the best learning outcomes possible within mixed ability environments. Whizz Education has provided a consultative and strategic programme that aligns with our objectives and delivers exactly what was required.

March 2021, we noticed a low pass rate (65%) for the tests within Maths-Whizz. We discussed lack of confidence in students completing the tests independently and strategies for resolving this. Once class teachers were made aware of the trend, they could observe, monitor, and take action and assessment results improved. Since the beginning of this academic year, the school’s pass rate for the unsupported elements of Maths-Whizz is now 72% across all classes. We are also currently in the process of arranging a training session for staff on identifying student struggle and the elements of Maths-Whizz which can be harnessed quickly and easily by teachers to intervene and support their students. These are examples of how our approach to course correction and action can result in a positive impact across student cohorts.” 

Matt Jones – Education Success Partner at Whizz Education