Building confidence and raising attainment in Maths

Key features

  • Deeper mathematical understanding
  • Focussed learning
  • Increased aspiration, confidence and self-belief

Each year The Radcliffe School runs two five-day maths residentials, targeted at its Year 10 and 11 C/D borderline Maths students. Students are selected from a group that are currently working at a D, to support them to achieve a C grade or above, or who have the potential to reach a C but are working at below a D grade.

Based at the the Longrigg Outdoor Centre in Cumbria, each day students have three two-hour Maths sessions and six hours of outdoor and adventurous activities. The aim of their Maths attainment residential programme is to enable students to achieve in areas they didn’t think possible both in the classroom and on the activities.

Rationale and approach

The students stay for five days at Longrigg. The aims and subject specific work are planned and prepared by a group of staff; the activities are determined by discussion with instructors, based on the ability level of the group and the weather conditions during the week. The outdoor activities and maths sessions are entirely unconnected. The outdoor activities simply act as a reward for the hard work put in during the maths sessions.

How the programme is run

The students and staff travel to the centre early on Monday, arriving around midday. Students are allowed a short amount of time to choose sleeping groups and then put their possessions in their rooms. They are then expected to dress according to the instructors’ guidelines; ready to climb Winder, a nearby mountain. Many students perceive this as impossible, however all students make it to the top. This first activity allows the students an immediate opportunity to experience success, while helping the instructors gauge the ability level of the group and plan appropriate activities for the rest of the week.

After the students return the duty groups are formed; students are split out of friendship groups to encourage the development of respectful relationships between everyone. The four groups have different duties every day: making breakfast, lunch, dinner or cleaning. All groups complete each duty once. Many students on the residential have never cooked a meal or vacuumed, so they also have the opportunity to learn vital life skills whilst away.

After dinner the first maths lesson begins, this is often met with resistance; the students are tired after their early start and the four-hour walk. However, it is crucial to establish early on that the purpose of the residential is to improve their progress and attainment in maths.

On Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday we follow this schedule:

7.00 am – Breakfast

7:30 am – Breakfast team clean up

8.00 am – Make packed lunches (while those not on duty get dressed and tidy personal living areas)

8:30 am – Maths lesson 1

10:30 am – Instructors’ briefing

11.00 am – Outdoor activities

4.00 pm – Maths lesson 2

6.00 pm – Cook dinner

7.00 pm – Dinner

7:30 pm – Clean up

8.00 pm – Maths lesson 3

10.00 pm – Free time

10:30 pm – Get ready for bed

11.00 pm – Lights out

On Friday, the group has breakfast together then cleans the centre before travelling home.

Impacts on students

All students demonstrated a deeper understanding in Maths, a number of students demonstrated that they were capable of understanding higher level Maths, and as a direct result of the residential are now in studying to sit the Higher GCSE paper.

Student A in particular demonstrated a significant increase in her work, her confidence and her self- belief. When planning the trip she was awarded a place, but later withdrew her application. Her place was reallocated to another student; later that week she asked if she could have her place back as her mother was not happy that she had withdrawn herself. We spoke to the Centre who allowed us an additional place and luckily we were able to re-offer her a place.

The student was achieving a D grade. She was timid, rarely contributed in class and never ventured outside her social circle. The residential changed her in so many ways! Her confidence increased significantly with every activity she completed successfully, she found she had a voice and that she could help people overcome their fears on the zip wire by talking to them and sharing the confidence that she felt. In return she found that she could also accept help from those students in other situations. Her relationship with staff developed, she began contributing in the Maths sessions, she began to believe in her own abilities, and by the end of the week she was a completely different student. Along with six of her classmates she moved to a new class after the residential and they are now studying to take the higher paper. This student in particular has gone from strength to strength; in her recent mock exam she achieved a B grade, two full levels of progress in eight months.