Aim: To develop teaching and learning styles to promote more independent learning, and thereby better prepare pupils for life beyond school.

Background: The department and the school were not convinced that enough was being done to support the development of personal study skills. A Year 11 learning journal had been introduced, but the success of this had been limited.


Summary journals: A maths-specific version of the Year 11 (first year of Sixth Form) learning journal was developed to be used in conjunction with the whole-school learning journal. This was then introduced to Year 9, asking them to keep a ‘summary journal’ of notes and key concepts. They were effectively writing their own revision guides. This proved so successful that it was later expanded across KS3 and 4.

Independent learning and links with homework: A Level homework had traditionally consisted of core tasks, review tasks for those who were not confident and extension tasks for those who were. While linked with mastery of key topics, it did not provide enrichment opportunities. In addition to the syllabus, a variety of enrichment opportunities were introduced, including:

  • Individual research and presentations on topics.
  • Practical tasks linked to mechanics concepts like forces and acceleration.
  • Group work on proofs, card tricks and tarsia puzzles which are not in the curriculum but enhance mathematical understanding.

Mastery: Lesson studies were conducted to find ways to help students who had not done well in assessments. The successful method was to have students review actual exam questions in small groups, with stronger students paired with weaker ones to come up with the answers but also common mistakes and misconceptions. Students then identified which topics needed further work, before a mini re-test.

Evidence: Summary journals, assessment data.

Impact: The summary journal has been a success, with staff integrating them into their teaching and many KS4 students now using them without being prompted. All of the independent study tasks have become integral parts of the teaching programme and activities for mastery are being embedded with all year groups. Unfortunately, due to the changes at GCSE, there is a need to move away from the three-year Sixth Form so there may no longer be time to include practical activities.

Reflections: The seeds for independent learning should be sown as early as possible, so starting in Year 7 seems like the correct thing to do. We believe that these changes have made a positive impact on our students and their confidence, but there were implications on timings and schemes of work needed adjusting as a result.

Too often students have a very narrow view of what maths is, and the opportunity for research and wider reading is essential. It was important to embed the idea of mastery into our day-to-day work, and we will try to see how the enrichment tasks currently used in the Sixth Form can be adapted for use lower down in the school.

Contact: Gordon Davis,; Steffi Hudson,