CfEM blog: Adapting a mastery approach for post-16 students

Blog by Steve Pardoe, the ETF’s Regional Maths Lead in the East Midlands and South East regions, for the Centres for Excellence in Maths (CfEM) programme.


East Kent College (EKC) Group is a family of five further education colleges and three business units, which collectively deliver high quality technical and vocational education to some 12,000 students in Broadstairs, Canterbury, Dover, Folkestone and Sheppey, whilst also providing a range of Apprenticeships, higher education, prison and employability training and professional development. 

Group Director of Mathematics and centre lead Sarah Morgan explains their approach:

“We have chosen to pursue the theme of embedding an adapted version of mastery across the EKC Group’s family of colleges, and our Network partners.

“The key questions we have asked ourselves are:

  • what will mastery look like in mathematics for FE?
  • how can we quickly make changes to practice on a large scale?

“Mastery in mathematics is complex, so as a group of colleges, we have chosen to concentrate on three strands: small steps planning, developing conceptual understanding and the importance of reasoning.  We decided to change our practice by collaboratively planning our resources, with all teachers meeting fortnightly to discuss delivery and share strategies.”

Greater Brighton Metropolitan College (GBMC) is made up of five vocational and technical colleges across Sussex, delivering maths GCSE lessons to about 1,200 students.  Maths GCSE lessons are 1.5 hours, twice a week, typically with groups of 12-18 students. 

Centre lead Naomi Adams explains their approach to mastery:

“This year, we are focusing on increasing the use of manipulatives and Concrete-Pictorial-Abstract modelling to help support understanding in maths and continue to use interleaving and spaced review for better retention of learning.  We have had several training sessions on the use of manipulatives including algebra tiles, Cuisenaire rods and Dienes blocks and some of our campuses are using the Complete Maths planning platform to support a mastery curriculum.  We are also using intervention outside of lesson times for students who need more time to keep up with the pace of the classes.

“We are keenly aware that these changes are demanding for staff, so have implemented a buddying system to support teachers, and have dedicated weekly planning meetings for discussing successes and shortcomings of the week’s teaching, and strategies for upcoming topics.”

Although taking slightly different approaches, both colleges have made substantial changes to their maths curriculum this year – with collaboration between teachers at the heart of both.

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