Post-16 and Maths Mastery at Grimsby Institute of Further and Higher Education

As part of the ETF project Teaching for Mastery in Maths, Grimsby Institute of Further and Higher Education (GIFHE) has been trialling teaching methods with a GCSE Resit class and formulating a new scheme of work to suit this approach. Emma Bell, GIFHE’s Maths Enhancement Manager, describes how the vision and methods adopted for this project were formulated. The information gathered is informing her work as lead for one of the 21 Centres for Excellence in Maths recently appointed by the Department for Education.

At Grimsby Institute, we have made a determined effort to conduct our own research and development with regards to a mastery approach to teaching mathematics. We are very aware that there are numerous preconceptions held by practitioners with regards to ‘Mastery’ and wanted to gauge the opinions of teachers of Post-16 mathematics in this area.

We conducted an online survey, which had over 100 responses from teachers in the sector. The teachers who responded taught maths at a variety of levels, in a variety of contexts – Functional Skills to Further Maths in General FE, Sixth Form Colleges, UTCs and other provisions.

Eighty-four per cent of respondents had heard of the term Mastery, which included 100% of all those who taught in a sixth form in a school and 71% of those who taught in General FE.

When those who had heard of mastery were asked if it would work in FE, 35% said yes, 14% no, and 51% replied maybe.

These same teachers were asked what the first thing that came into their minds was when they heard the team ‘mastery’. The word cloud at the bottom of this blog shows the variety of words recorded – the more times it was said, the larger the font size of the word.

For any approach to teaching and learning to be successful, teachers must have a shared understanding of the underpinning concepts and methods. The results of the survey demonstrated that there was certainly work to do to ensure the right foundations are laid for the project to be successful.

We decided to go back to the beginning, to research the history of the term ‘Mastery’ in relation to education. We learnt that the concept is far from new and certainly not influenced by mathematics teaching in Singapore and similar PISA high-ranking education systems. We’re putting together a document which outlines mastery for FE teaching: Mastery is common sense. It’s good teaching. It’s giving every student the chance to meet their potential.

As teachers of the Post-16 maths resit, we can see that this approach perfectly fits what we want for our students. Those students who have been branded as ‘failures’ can achieve. They can actually not mind being in a maths lesson.

We can’t wait to see how far we can take this approach, with the whole department adopting teaching for mastery alongside a stripped down, evidence-informed, scheme of work that we have formulated – The Focused 15.

Watch this space…

You can contact Emma by email ( and follow her on Twitter at @El_Timbre.

Word cloud graphic representing research carried out for Maths Mastery project at Grimsby CFHE- Understanding, fluency and depth are most prominent words

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