I never excelled in mathematics whilst at school; this engendered in me, a strong admiration for those who did. As a Head, I was keen to explore ways in which mathematics was relevant to the children in a way that was accessible to all, was exciting, was fun and in a way that built confidence.
We are fortunate in the independent sector, to have small class sizes and to be able to work with a manageable size of pupils that results in productive attention to all. The catchment area of our school is, in addition, an oasis tucked away in west London that bursts with an abundance of family life that is ambitious and aspires for the best for their children, beyond and above any socio-economic stereotype. As such, in Ealing, we are blessed with exceptional independent and maintained schools.
The selection of highly qualified staff together with an inspiring and imaginative curriculum is the essence without which a bright and shining star cannot glow. All children are stars and all children have the potential to glow. Our choice of mathematics scheme five years ago was spurred from a critical appraisal of what was available to primary schools in the UK at that time. We were keen to find a scheme that was practical and that enabled children of all abilities to make good progress, supporting the less mathematical ones of us and stretching the most able. We embraced the Singapore Maths scheme and began an intensive training programme for our teaching and non-teaching staff. The rest is history.
The top and most highly selective schools in our local area, were invited to a Maths Challenge run by DCBeagle, aimed at testing skill and speed; mostly problem solving based, the challenge sets to test the ‘inquisitive mind’. Six of ‘the best’ schools in Ealing from both the independent and maintained sector, accepted our invitation and the two-hour long challenge took place on 6th February 2019.
It was an event that reached out to our local community and brimming with anticipation and excitement, we welcomed our neighbouring schools to Harvington, and revelled in the opportunity to bring together children of the same age to mingle and to share in their passion for mathematical problem solving.
Children were arranged in pairs and each school had up to 5 groups that represented them. The challenge was to complete the problems one by one and to swiftly present the answers to the markers on stage, who were the teachers from the schools present. As each problem was solved, the children returned to their seats and progressed to the next one, with the object of completing as many as possible, during a given period of time.
And all at once, mathematics became a joy; a puzzle to be solved; an urgent collaboration of young minds; an energetic quest amidst the most electric exuberance that was 11-year-old children with a purpose.
What was overwhelming to behold, was the outstanding participation of absolutely everyone and to that end, it is almost a pity to have ‘winners and not winners’, but of course that was the essence of the magic on the day!
My reflections on our success are many and touch upon the oldest debates in education, providing evidence for discussions such as, gender stereotypes, differentiation (Singapore Maths does not promote differentiation), competition, small classes/ small schools, I could go on. But for now, our school community celebrates; our school community is proud; and our winners glow, heads bowed with humility, quietly bursting at the seams.