Secondary Teaching for Mastery

Many teachers across the Hub region are becoming interested in understanding the principles and pedagogies underpinning teaching for mastery. For this to develop from individual enthusiasms to long term, sustainable, developments across a secondary mathematics department there we would like  to engage local teachers in practice-based professional development activity, consideration of leadership and management issues and (together with the senior leader and/or head of department) the development of whole-school systems.

Many primary schools are adopting teaching for mastery approaches and over the next few years, pupils will be entering year 7 with an expectation of some continuity and progression in classroom practice, lesson design, school expectations, etc. This work is important to prepare for this continuity and progression from year 6 to year 7. Mastery principles’ efficacy is emanating from a strong evidence base and now changing practice at Secondary level is required to mirror the transformation at primary level and the Secondary Mastery Specialists will be pivotal in this journey.

A key aim of these Work Groups is to develop groups of mathematics departments where strong curriculum, teaching and professional development practices can be shared more widely across the Hub region. In our Hub there needs to be better engagement from secondary schools and this will be the route for this engagement.

What will participation in the programme involve?

Year One: Participating schools nominate a lead teacher to develop as the Mastery Specialist. In the first year of the programme, the teacher will attend three residential training events (November 2016, March 2017 and July 2017), and develop their own skills of teaching mathematics for mastery in their own classes. In addition, each teacher will lead regular Teacher Research Groups  for colleagues in their own department in order to support teaching for mastery in the department.
Later in the school year, the lead teacher will (with the support of any other lead teachers in the Maths Hub) run TRG meetings for a group of interested schools. The overall time commitment necessary for involvement will be the equivalent of 10.5 days maximum (4.5 days for central programme  and 6 days for the internal and external TRG work).

Year Two: In the second year, the focus will shift to working with other teachers in other schools while still maintaining development work in the participant’s school.  Each Maths Hub will fund a secondary teaching for mastery Work Group involving up to 6 schools led by the secondary Mastery Specialist.

What are the benefits of participating in the programme?

The benefits for schools that apply to be part of the programme include:

  • The teachers in the department (including the lead teacher) developing a deep understanding of the principles and pedagogies underpinning teaching for mastery and enhanced mathematics subject knowledge with a particular emphasis on progression within key areas of mathematics
  • The teachers developing teaching, planning and assessment practices which support a teaching for mastery approach
  • The lead teacher developing his/her own understanding and practice in supporting collaborative professional development within and beyond school. (Participants who are not already NCETM Accredited PD Leads will also be able to gain this accreditation through successful completion of the programme.)
  • The department developing a clear set of principles, policies, practices and systems (including curriculum and staffing / timetable developments) which support a mastery curriculum and a teaching for mastery approach
  • The department making effective use of materials and resources, including textbooks to support the design of well-crafted lessons to support pupils’ mastery
  • Pupils developing a deep understanding of the mathematical ideas they are taught so that they fully meet the aims of the National Curriculum (i.e. fluency, reasoning and problem solving); showing a positive attitude towards mathematics; enjoying learning the subject; and demonstrating a growth mind-set


In order to maximize the likelihood that ALL pupils’ thinking and reasoning about the concrete develops into thinking and reasoning with increasing abstraction, there should be in (almost) every lesson:

  • a well-made choice of the analogy / representation / model with which the teacher introduces the key concept(s)
  • students’ reasoning being cultivated and sharpened, and connections being made, by them through the discussions that the teacher is fostering and steering: “the answer is only the beginning”
  • rich misconceptions predicted and confronted as part of the sequence of questions that the teacher has planned
  • both conceptual understanding and procedural fluency being embedded and deepened through the intelligent practice that the teacher has designed and prepared for the students to engage in and with.

Secondary Maths Mastery Specialists

Lauren O’Connor

Lauren completed her teaching qualification as part of the Teach First leadership development programme in Wales, after receiving her undergraduate degree in Biomedical Sciences from Cardiff University. During the summer of her first year teaching, Lauren worked as part of a team that delivered CPD in schools in rural India.
This project sparked her interest in developing and coaching other teachers. Lauren is now in her fourth year of teaching and is now based at Lister Community School in Newham where she mentors first year Teach First participants and works with her department to develop mastery at Key Stage 3. Lauren is currently in the final stages of studying for an MA in Education.


Emily Curtis-Harper

Emily is Assistant Head Teacher at Little Ilford School, and has been a Secondary Teaching for Mastery Specialist for two years. She was Teaching for Mastery Lead in her previous role as Maths Hub Consultant for another London Maths Hub. Emily has developed schemes of learning, assessments and teaching practices that align very closely with the principles of Teaching for Mastery during her last 5 years of teaching, and is still exploring ways to further develop these principles to ensure success and enjoyment for all students.