I undertook my preliminary school experience in the Spring Bank Primary School, Headingley, Leeds. Sprig Bank Primary has 198 pupils on roll. Children in this school come from different cultural and ethnical backgrounds, 30 per cent of children speak English as additional language, and 15 per cent of children are entitled to free school meals. Children are taught in mixed abilities age groups.
During the first week of my preliminary school experience I mostly observed children in Year 2, while helping the teacher with the range of activities including working with small groups during Literacy and Numeracy hours as well as helping during other subject lessons. The second week I mostly spend observing teaching and learning process in Year 6, while working with a pupil with mild learning difficulties. This arrangement gave me an opportunity to observe a progression in teaching the National Curriculum not only within one year group but also within different age groups and different Key Stages.
Year 2 and Year 6 groups were particularly interesting as they are going to take National Tests for Key Stage 1 and 2 at the end of the academic year. My main teaching subject is mathematics and I was particularly interested in the National Curriculum for mathematics. The school follows the National Numeracy Strategy and the Framework for teaching mathematics from Reception to Year 6 published by the Department for Education and Employment. All children have a daily Numeracy lesson which lasts for 45 minutes in Key Stage 1 and 60 minutes in Key Stage 2.
The National Numeracy Strategy Framework provides a detailed basis for implementing the National Curriculum for mathematics for Key Stages 1 and 2. The Framework gives the key objectives for teaching mathematics, yearly teaching programmes and planning grids. It also provides examples for the all year groups giving illustrations to the teaching objectives. Each year group have similarly structured long term lesson plans. Lessons at the beginning of the autumn term are based on material that was taught last year. New topics are being gradually introduced throughout the year with a new knowledge being build upon already known material.
For the most of the year groups teaching plans are covering the same topics during the autumn and summer terms, which allows to come back to the same material but on the new level within a year gradually reinforcing and moving to the more difficult tasks. Process of teaching mathematics is organised in such way that children are starting to learn with simple concepts moving on to more and more difficult ones. At first they are applying their knowledge of mathematics to the familiar objects gradually moving on to the more abstract concepts. Teaching mathematics starts in Reception with lessons on counting and recognising numbers.
At first children are learning to count everyday objects but by the end of the Key Stage 1 they are expected to use confidently numbers to at least 100 without putting them into a context. Children begin to work with fractions in Year 2. They are starting with recognising and finding one half and one quarter of shapes and small number of objects. In Year 4 children are progressing in their understanding of fractions to using decimals, again starting with familiar concepts such as money. By the end of the primary school children will learn how to use fractions and decimals confidently and move on to understanding percentage.
In Year 4 children are being introduced to the concept of negative numbers. At the beginning they are expected to recognise negative numbers in familiar context like on a temperature scale. After returning to the same topic during the next two years Year 6 pupils will be able to find the difference between a positive and a negative number. When learning to calculate, Reception pupils are begin with relating addition to combining two groups of objects and subtraction to ‘taking away’. In Year 2 multiplication is being introduced as repeated addition and division as repeated subtraction or sharing.
In Year 3 children learn to recognise that division is the inverse of multiplication. This way teaching of the more complicated methods of calculations is based on the using the simpler ones, which children already know. Throughout their years at the primary school children are progressing from simply calculating results to be able to estimate and check them. Year 2 pupils are starting to check results of their calculations repeating addition in different order and by Year 4 children should understand concept of inverse operations and to be able to use it to check results.
At the same time they are starting to approximate results beforehand. By Year 6 children should confidently use different strategies for estimating and checking their results such as checking with inverse operation when using calculator, checking the sum of several numbers by adding in reverse order, using their knowledge of properties of odd and even numbers. In Reception children are starting to learn about measures by making direct comparisons of lengths or masses and by filling and emptying containers.
In Year 2 they will learn how to estimate, measure and compare lengths, masses and capacities, using standard units. Children continue to work in this direction and by Year 4 they should know and use the relationship between familiar units. In Year 5, as their confidence in using multiplications progresses, children should learn that area measured in square centimetres, understand and use the formula for the area of a rectangle. In Year 6 they are using this knowledge and learn to calculate the perimeter and area of simple compound shapes that can be split into rectangles.