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					Saturday, January 23, 2010

Herefordshire ‘Girls Count’ Project

Herefordshire ‘Girls Count’ Project 2007-2008
This report seeks to share with all Herefordshire primary schools the approaches that appear to be effective in raising girls’ confidence and mathematical achievement in Key Stage 2. These recommendations are based on evidence from a small-scale action research project involving seven Herefordshire primary schools.

In order to raise girls’ confidence and achievement in mathematics, schools should:Analyse data on progress and identify girls’ attitudes to mathematics   Use school tracking data to identify girls whose progress in mathematics in KS2 is a cause for concern Survey girls’ perceptions of mathematics in each year group, identify what they find helpful and the areas they find difficult

Develop dialogue and engagement    Use paired discussion and ‘thinking time’ before asking girls to give an answer in front of the whole class Actively engage girls in lessons, including through higher-order questioning and follow-up questions to extend thinking Provide cooperative and collaborative learning opportunities and a varied and challenging range of activities

Ensure understanding of concepts    Group ‘target girls’ into all-girl groups and provide effective guided group teaching with an emphasis on dialogue and focusing on areas of difficultly in mathematics Create opportunities for children to discuss mathematical problems, explain their thinking and reasoning and encourage them to think of alternative ways of approaching the same problem Provide opportunities to use and apply mathematics in open-ended tasks

Involve girls in their own learning:      Encourage dialogue about understanding and difficulties, using mistakes positively as an opportunity to learn Develop a belief that all can succeed Prepare children to expect to face and overcome challenges in mathematics lessons Develop independence through use of learning prompts/strategy cards/working walls Involve children in reflecting on their learning, help them to recognise their progress and next steps

Give good quality feedback:  Focus feedback on learning objectives  Ensure all children and especially girls receive positive feedback  Praise the effort and strategies rather than the person Involve parents  Encourage girls to talk about their progress in mathematical understanding with their parents  Involve parents in helping their daughters to enjoy mathematics.

These recommendations are reinforced in the forthcoming National Strategies publication Children who attain Level 4 in English and not mathematics at Key Stage 2. It’s recommendations can be found in Appendix B.

The background to Herefordshire’s project –
National and local performance data indicates that girls often make less progress and achieve less well than boys in mathematics in Key Stage 2 (KS2). Nationally girls outperform boys in mathematics at Foundation Stage and Key Stage1 (KS1). However, boys outperform girls at KS2. In addition, at KS1, KS2 and KS3, boys are more likely to attain the higher levels. These gender differences in the national results are replicated locally. In Herefordshire in 2007, 74% of Year 6 girls reached Level 4+ while the figure for boys was 79%. Of these pupils, 30% of girls reached Level 5, but 37% of boys attained this higher level. In 2008, there was a slight decrease in the gender gap at Level 4+ (76% of girls and 78% of boys) while at Level 5 the gender gap had widened (25% of girls and 33% of boys). In Autumn 2007, Herefordshire School Improvement Service embarked on a project designed to identify the strategies that would improve girls’ rate of progress between the ages of 7 and 11. At one of their termly network meetings, mathematics coordinators were invited to take part in the project. Initially fourteen schools expressed interest in being involved and eventually seven schools took part in the action research. See Appendix C for the list of schools and teachers.

The project
The project was led by Numeracy Consultant Veronica Ruth and involved a group of mathematics coordinators and a headteacher. The group started by considering the research on girls’ achievement in mathematics and a recent unpublished project in Lancashire. Based on this information, the group devised and agreed the ‘girl-friendly’ teaching strategies that could be introduced (see Appendix A). It was suggested that two teachers in each school carry out the research. The research involved: a tracking procedure to identify girls making slow progress in years 3 - 6 and to record the progress made by these girls in key stage 2 and during the period of the project

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pupil questionnaires to measure girls’ levels of confidence and attitudes to mathematics at the beginning and end of the research a self-assessment tool for teachers based on the ‘girl-friendly’ teaching strategies to be completed both before and after the period of intervention peer lesson observations to evaluate the level of girls’ participation in mathematics lessons at the start and end of the intervention.

The group met three times during the spring and summer terms to discuss progress, raise issues and share information and successful strategies. Most of the project schools were represented at the first two meetings. However at the final meeting only one school was represented, due to a range of events being held in schools on that date towards the end of the summer term. Completion of the tracking grids alone was a valuable exercise in that it drew attention to particular girls who were making little or no progress in KS2. One teacher said ‘It was very surprising to see how some children are just not progressing’. Staff in a large school identified twenty girls who appeared to have made no progress during the year 2007/08. Information from this tracking exercise and the pupil questionnaires helped schools to identify the girls who were in danger of not making the progress they should in KS2. These girls became the focus of attention and often formed a ‘target group’. In each school the project developed in different ways. In all the schools, the initial pupil questionnaires were used. However, the numbers of pupils involved varied widely with some schools focusing on a small number of girls in one particular year group and others using the questionnaire with all KS2 pupils. Only four of the schools asked pupils to complete the second questionnaire at the end of the project. Most project teachers identified a colleague to work with them. In most schools these two teachers completed the initial teacher self-evaluation form although only one repeated this exercise formally at the end of the two terms of the project. In five of the schools lesson observations were conducted by peers at some stage during the two terms of the project. However no follow-up peer lesson observations took place. Each school was visited in late summer/autumn 2008, when lessons were observed by staff from the School Improvement Service Primary Team. Good and very good teaching was observed in several schools with teachers demonstrating the ‘girl-friendly’ teaching strategies they use to good effect. Discussions were held with project teachers and headteachers, on the impact of the research, pupil progress and the schools’ plans for continuing the work into 2008/9.

Pupil progress
Indications are that the project contributed to an increase in the rate of progress made by girls in the programme; however a much larger study would be required in order to demonstrate the statistical significance of this finding. Two schools completed the tracking grids while the rest submitted data in other forms. With the data provided, it was not always possible to compare rates of progress during the two terms of the project with progress made during previous years. However, the table below shows the assessment information provided by project schools.

Table 1 School

Progress and attainment in project schools during 2007- 08 Progress and attainment in mathematics


All Y6 girls made progress with some making more than three sub-levels progress. All Y5 girls bar one made two sub-levels progress.


All but one Y6 girls attained L4+. One Y5 girl made three sub-levels progress. The teacher reported, ‘This probably would not have happened without the focus of ‘Girls Count’’


The school reported significantly increased value-added in years 4, 5 and 6. Average rate of progress in sub-levels made by target girls through KS2 in Y3 in Y4 in Y5 in Y6 seven Y4 girls 0.14 2.14 six Y5 girls 0.5 0.5 2 six Y6 girls 0.66 0.66 0 3.5 Red = progress made during year of ‘Girls Count’ project


Average sub-level progress made since end of KS1 Y5 pupils Y4 pupils Y3 pupils

Girls 4.25 3.2 1

Boys 4.8 2.7 1.4


In Y6 80% of boys and 89% of girls attained L4+. 30% boys and 44% girls attained L5. All children achieving L3 at KS1 went on to gain L5 at KS2. In addition, three children who achieved 2a at KS1 gained L5 at KS2. 93% of children who achieved within Level 2 at KS1 achieved L4 at KS2.


In Y3, 50% girls made one or two sub-levels progress, four appeared to make no progress and one was assessed at a sub-level lower than in Y2. 60% of Y3 boys made two sub-levels progress. In Y6, 88% of boys and 58% of girls made two or more sub-levels progress during the year. The progress made the twelve Y5 ‘focus’ girls during the year of the project was as follows:5 made one sub-level progress 3 made two sub-levels progress 3 made three sub-levels progress 1 made four sub-levels progress Average rate of progress in sub-levels made by target girls through KS2 in Y3 in Y4 in Y5 in Y6 Twelve Y5 girls 1 1 2 Red = progress made during year of ‘Girls Count’ project


Girls’ confidence and attitudes to mathematics
All schools used the pupil questionnaire at the beginning of the project but only four repeated the exercise at the end of the period. Some changes in levels of girls’ confidence were found when these second questionnaires were analysed. Initial questionnaires indicated that many girls lacked the confidence to answer questions in mathematics lessons and were frightened of getting something wrong. Most only enjoyed lessons ‘sometimes’. When faced with a problem, more than half were inclined to ask for help rather than try another strategy. These findings are supported by research that has shown that many girls have lower expectations and are less confident in mathematics than boys. Carol Dweck (1975) proposes that girls tend to have an ‘entity’ view of intelligence while boys tend to have an ‘incremental’ view of intelligence. Girls tend to attribute success to hard work and good luck, and failure to lack of ability, while boys tend to attribute success to ability and failure to bad luck or lack of effort. In mathematics, it seems that when girls make mistakes or get an answer wrong, they are more likely than boys to feel a sense of personal failure. Peer lesson observations increased teachers’ awareness of the girls who lack confidence. One observer noticed that more able girls never volunteered to answer or put their hands up. In another it was noted ‘there were some ‘eyes-down’ tactics to avoid being picked’. One teacher recorded ‘Girls are less confident to answer questions so I’m now deliberately targeting questions to girls. Where the second questionnaire was used, both girls and boys reported noticing changes to their mathematics lessons. Some reported that they enjoyed mathematics more and some found lessons more exciting, fun and enjoyable. Some girls found the lessons more interesting and more difficult so they learnt more. Others said they were working on harder questions so it was more fun. Some girls felt their mathematical ability had improved. In one school, fewer girls were frightened of getting something wrong and when faced with a problem, more were willing to try another strategy. In another school, girls reported liking lessons that were challenging and fun, and in which they were not rushed and they learned something. It seems that in these schools, girls’ perception of mathematics was changing from a subject involving right and wrong answers to one that can be challenging and fun. The questionnaires provided other interesting information. In class, most girls preferred to work with a friend (normally a girl) while boys were more content to work with anyone. Some girls reported that they liked a relaxed teacher who makes mathematics understandable and makes them proud of themselves. At home, mothers were just as likely as fathers to provide help with mathematics homework.

Successful approaches – ‘girl-friendly’ strategies (see Appendix A)
The most commonly adopted strategy was the grouping of ‘target’ girls into all-girl groups within the classroom. This enabled teachers to provide focused guided group teaching to address the identified areas of weakness. One teacher tried sending an all-girl group to work with a teaching assistant outside the classroom but this was not effective and the strategy was abandoned. Generally, girls enjoyed sitting in an all-girl group within the class, finding it

easier to concentrate. They felt safer and less likely to be ridiculed. They liked being able to discuss mathematics with other girls (away from the boys who they felt knew more than them). As one teacher reported ‘Girls like working with other girls’. While one noted that single-sex groups worked well across the ability range, another found that the more able girls were happier in a single-sex group but at the same time the boys’ behaviour deteriorated. Another said, ‘All-girl groups have been a revelation for me – I now use this approach in literacy for the boys with great results.’ Another commonly used strategy was an increase in pupil-to-pupil dialogue associated with an increase in cooperative and collaborative learning activities. Pupils reported enjoying the increase in pair and group work, rehearsing answers with a partner, discussion time, using a shared whiteboard and helping each other to solve problems in a mutually supportive way. As one teacher said, ‘I give them time to think’. Another wrote, ‘Particular areas of change were in much more use of collaborative learning activities and the introduction of the teaching of explicit strategies of working in groups’. During whole class teaching and questioning, a range of strategies were used to encourage less confident children to participate. Children were less likely to be asked to hold up their hand before answering a question. Strategies to ensure all children answered questions included a teacher using lolly sticks with children’s names on to select a child to answer a question. Others reported:   ‘I don’t look at a child when she/he is working out an answer mentally, it takes the pressure off.’ ‘I display a ‘hands-up’ or ‘hands-down’ card on the board to indicate the type of response I want. I just have to point to this.’ ‘I used a lot of pair discussion, asked higher-order questions, praised good mathematical thinking and tried to create an atmosphere in which children are encouraged to explain, communicate and conjecture and develop precise mathematical vocabulary.’

In one lesson children, were given time to discuss questions in pairs and small groups and girls were deliberately targeted to ensure that they reported their answers to the class. All pupils were expected to listen to each other’s solutions. In another, girls worked in single sex groups to solve problems and were expected to display and discuss their work in the plenary. Teachers also reflected on their use of praise, avoiding praising the person and focusing the praise on the child’s effort and strategies. Some reported finding it difficult to stop themselves saying ‘Good girl’ or ‘Good boy’ in response to a child’s answer. One teacher tried to explain the reason why he was giving praise. Another noted on a lesson observation form ‘(child’s name) loved the ‘talented mind’ comment from her teacher and she physically sat up more.’ In order to increase independence and active engagement, teachers introduced more problem solving, games and working walls. One year 4 teacher reported that providing more opportunity to play games and use equipment was popular with pupils. Another noted, ‘I’m keeping the competitive element down, using less textbook work, as children prefer being active, doing practical tasks and working in a group.’ A year 3 teacher said, ‘More openended tasks are being used. Working walls have really taken off; things are put up quickly, often by the children, including mathematical vocabulary. They are put to use and not just nice and neat’. In a very good lesson, this teacher was observed developing a working wall with children. As patterns were generated, groups pinned up their investigative work and in

the plenary this became the focus for discussion. Several teachers noted an increase in girls’ engagement in mathematics lessons as the project progressed. Efforts were made to involve children more in reflecting on their own learning. For example, teachers said: ‘Children take turns to record the WALT (We are learning today). I am using more questions in my marking so children have the opportunity to feedback to me.’  It’s important to hear the pupils’ voice, what they enjoy and need and build on their interests.’  ‘Building girls’ confidence is vital. I’m trying to get across the idea that it is ‘ok’ to make a mistake or to say they don’t understand.’ One Y5/6 teacher felt that with encouragement, girls can develop a positive approach. She found that she was changing the way she talked about tackling challenging work. So when a child faced difficulties and commented that the work was really ‘hard’, she had started saying ‘Brilliant! Tackling tricky work makes your brain grow’!

Impact on project teachers
The teachers involved in the project were self-selecting, and several had recognised that the achievement of girls in mathematics in their school was a cause for concern. They were not all mathematics specialists, although many had responsibility for leading the subject in their school. They were genuinely interested in finding out how they could improve girls’ levels of confidence and attainment and were willing to learn about new approaches. Conclusions from research already carried out in the area of gender and mathematics were of interest to them. By using the questionnaires, they gained insight into how children feel about mathematics and what children enjoy in their lessons. Involvement in the project gave teachers the opportunity to reflect on their current practice and develop new teaching approaches. Several commented that seeing these strategies impacting on girls’ levels of engagement was very satisfying and encouraging.

Impact on the whole school
Engagement in the project often stimulated a review of current approaches to teaching mathematics and the development of more consistent approaches to teaching and learning. One headteacher concluded, ‘The project indicated the value of small scale research. It can be very beneficial and teach you a lot. It showed that there is a need to develop teachers’ ongoing assessment skills, for example noticing which children need extra practice, and their confidence to adapt the lesson to suit the children’s needs Most project teachers had shared the ‘girl-friendly’ teaching strategies with their colleagues. As one headteacher reported, ‘The coordinator’s work on the project has made a difference. She has shared the information and strategies with staff and by identifying each person’s ‘foibles’ has helped to establish more common practice across the school. Through further continuing professional development (CPD) during 2008/09, the schools plan to encourage more staff to introduce girl-friendly strategies into their teaching of mathematics. It will be important for schools to plan carefully to ensure that the progress made during the project is not lost. Plans should include opportunities for staff to engage in collaborative CPD by planning together and working in each other’s classrooms.

The School Improvement Service will seek to encourage teachers involved in the project to share their experience and strategies with teachers in other schools.

A number of strategies appear to have an impact on increasing girls’ confidence and achievement in mathematics. Small scale research at the classroom level can have positive outcomes in terms of pupil progress and teacher professional development. However, lack of confidence among many girls in their ability to succeed in mathematics is a challenge and raising their attainment in KS2 requires a consistent whole-school approach if it is to be overcome. For more information about the project and the materials developed by the group, contact:Veronica Ruth Numeracy Consultant, Primary School Improvement Service Children and Young People’s Directorate Herefordshire Council.

Appendix A

Develop dialogue and engagement:
Use paired discussion and ‘thinking time’. Use teaching through dialogue. Use cooperative and collaborative learning activities. Actively engage girls in lessons, including through higher-order questioning and follow-up questions to extend thinking  Explicitly teach strategies for working in groups for use across the curriculum    

Ensure understanding of concepts:
     Enable groups of girls to work away from the class/in all-girl groups. Give opportunities for girls to explain strategies and rules to apply later. Ensure quality working time for girls to consolidate skills and refine strategies. Scaffold learning by alternating practice and plenary within lessons. Provide opportunities to use and apply in open-ended tasks

Involve girls in their own learning:
     Encourage dialogue about understanding and difficulties, using mistakes positively as an opportunity to learn. Develop a belief that all can succeed. Prepare children to expect to face and overcome challenges in mathematics lessons Develop independence through use of learning prompts/ strategy cards/ working walls, etc. Provide opportunities for self-evaluation, reflection and feedback to teacher

Give good quality feedback:
   Focus feedback on the learning objective. Ensure that girls receive positive feedback. Avoid praising the person (e.g. ‘good girl’) – develop confidence by explicitly praising effort or strategy, i.e. the skill or understanding or persistence demonstrated. Build on girls’ willingness to invest time by giving opportunities to feed back to the class in the plenary.


Appendix B
Recommendations from the draft National Strategies publication Children who attain Level 4 in English and not mathematics at Key Stage 2. ‘Differences in the attainment of girls and boys …there are key messages about the under-attainment of girls we need to share with schools, and recommended actions that schools can take to accelerate the progress and raise the attainment of girls. Recommendations:  Schools should analyse the attainment of each cohort in the school by gender in order to identify whether there are any imbalances in the attainment of boys and girls that needs to be addressed over the course of the key stage. Teachers should engage girls in targeted assessment for learning activities, to help them to understand and recognise the progress they are making and the next steps in learning they need to take to continue to progress. Schools should review girls’ confidence in their ability to do mathematics, and where appropriate promote a ‘can do’ approach to problem solving and enquiry within a selfsupporting group who are expected to help one another and share their thinking; encourage these girls to discuss and share mathematical ideas, processes and strategies, and from time-to-time present to the rest of the class. Teachers should set high expectations for girls’ learning and attainment, pitched at a level that ensures they are on track to meet age-related targets for mathematics as set out in the Primary Framework. Schools should make effective use of the prior learning sections, assessment questions and learning overviews in the Primary Framework to plan assessment opportunities for identified groups of girls making slow progress or those ‘hidden’ girls about whom there is little assessment evidence available. Teachers should engage girls who make slow progress or fall behind in their learning, in guided group work sessions that focus on mental mathematics and discussion with mathematical activity that involves girls in decision making, explaining and reasoning. Schools should monitor the balance and range of girls’ learning experiences and where necessary provide supportive hands-on learning using practical resources and models and images in mathematics that include the visualising of models such as number lines that can provide support strategies for calculation. Teachers should encourage girls to take risks and move away from the safety of routines; engage girls in answering more open-ended questions, sustaining a line of








enquiry and using ICT as a platform to explore and access information they can use to hypothesis, test and review ideas.  In the daily mathematics lesson, teachers should give girls sufficient opportunity to answer questions during a class or group discussion, provide sufficient time for them to answer, and where necessary, give boys other tasks to complete to ensure they do not dominate these sessions. Teachers should provide girls with structured and scaffolded activities where they can use and apply their mathematics learning; over time remove the scaffolding so they come to rely less on the applications of routines and more on interpretation, pattern spotting, and the making and testing of conjectures and generalisations. Teachers should model for girls how to use personal jottings and make annotations in mathematics to demonstrate how these can help thinking, and promote their use alongside or in place of the neat presentations girls often see as the end product of a mathematical activity. Schools should make mathematics interesting to girls and help them become more aware of the importance of mathematical knowledge and skills in the workplace, drawing on the evidence that poor numeracy is a greater barrier to women finding work than it is for men.’




Appendix C
Primary schools involved in Herefordshire’s Girls Count project I would like to thank the following schools and teachers for their contributions to the project:Ashfield Park Primary Brockhampton Primary Bosbury Primary Cradley Primary Ledbury Primary Stretton Sugwas Primary Walford Primary Alan Monger and Lorraine Yeardisley Lindsey Taylor and Pippa Denman Lorna Gamble and Lee Card Liz George and Deana Fieldhouse Jill Evans, Catriona Hope and Shelley Marsh Barry Thompson and Steve Matthews Marcella Scoles and Emma Trout

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