Core Maths Leads (CMLs) play a key role in supporting developments in Core Maths.  Most CMLs are released for up to half of their working week to support the introduction of Core Maths both in their own school or college and a cluster of post-16 providers in their region where Core Maths is being taught. The support includes development of resources and engaging in professional development activities relevant for Core Maths.

Christine Thompson has been working as a CML since January 2015. She is based at Lincoln College, the largest provider of education courses in Lincolnshire.  Christine has a first class degree in Chemistry and A-levels in both Mathematics and Further Maths as well as Physics and Chemistry. After five years working in the banking industry during which she qualified as a mortgage adviser, Christine completed a PGCE. She has been teaching Science and Maths for the last eight years, six of which were spent in schools.

Christine has worked at Lincoln College for two years, teaching Chemistry and Mathematics to both GCSE and A-levels students.  Lincoln College has been delivering Core Maths since September 2014. The course has increased in popularity during this time, so much so that from next September there will be two Core Maths classes running rather than one.

Christine Thompson

Expanding the Cluster

Christine’s cluster started with five centres, but over the last year has grown to more than twenty within a seventy mile radius of Lincoln College.  The majority of centres are already teaching Core Maths, while the remainder are looking to begin delivery in September 2016.

Christine has recruited these new centres through a number of routes. Some she made contact with at mathematics related events. For example the ‘Maths Skill’ event offered an opportunity to meet a number of centres who are thinking of teaching Core Maths. Christine also went on an AQA course about Core Maths which was attended by a number of new centres to whom she made herself known.

One of the first things Christine did when she took over the role of CML was to email out to all the schools and colleges in the Lincoln area to let them know about Core Maths and the support she could offer them. Christine always encourages schools and colleges already in her cluster to pass her details on to any centres they come across that is interested in or new to delivering Core Maths. This is the channel through which most new centres have been in touch with her over the last year.  Word of mouth has been very powerful in the promotion of Core Maths in the area. Schools and colleges are of course more likely to recommend a CML to other centres if they know the CML is enthusiastic, knowledgeable, supportive and accessible.

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Working with Schools and Colleges

Christine always carries out an initial visit to each centre that joins her cluster. Teachers within the centres are obviously very busy and making time for a visit during the school day can be challenging. However, Christine notes the importance of being flexible and is always willing to offer meeting slots early in the morning or late on in the day if that’s what a centre requires.  

The purpose of Christine’s initial visit is to discuss issues such as student recruitment, marketing of the course and available resources. Christine has developed a checklist that she works her way through at these meetings, which can last anything up to a couple of hours.

Topics covered include how the centre is planning to deliver the course. Christine gives feedback on what other centres in the cluster are doing and how it has worked out for them. There is also a focus on the different exam boards and what they offer as well as discussion about which students at the centre should be offered Core Maths.

Schools and colleges are always particularly interested in the resources that Christine has to share. On the visits she brings with her a flash drive filled with those resources. Some come from the CMSP website, some are from her cluster (for example assessments and homework sheets) while other resources such as a scheme of work and a one year route map, have been developed by staff at Lincoln college. Christine believes the sharing of resources is key to the role of the CML so that schools and colleges don’t have to start from scratch when they begin teaching the course.

‘I go out and share lots of resources to save centres having to sit down to find them and download them.’

The benefit of this Christine believes, is that centres can get the course up and running more quickly than they would otherwise have done if they had to go out and find everything themselves. Similarly centres find it helpful when Christine shares her own experiences and insights from delivering the course over the last two years.

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The Response from Schools and Colleges

The feedback from centres that Christine has worked with, suggests they find the support offered by a CML invaluable. She believes that in particular they welcome the fact that she will visit at a convenient time of day that suits them. Being willing to spend as much time as centres need to discuss their options around the course content and delivery is also vital.  Christine notes that sometimes centres have not had a chance to think through the important details of the course, such as who on their team is best suited to teaching it, how to timetable it, which students to offer it to etc.  Centres welcome the time and space that the initial meeting with Christine provides to consider all these issues.

Thanks for this Christine and also for coming yesterday! The resources look amazing, you’ve saved us so much time.

Emma Williams, Ashfield School, Nottinghamshire

It was worth having you in so that we were confident with entering our students in this year (as we've tried to do Core Maths in one year). We do appreciate your help

Raja Akhtar, Ken Stimpson Community school, Peterborough


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Continued support

The visit that Christine first makes to centres is extremely comprehensive and quite lengthy. Typically unless the centres is an Early Adopter (in the first cohort of schools and colleges that began delivery of Core Maths in 2014), there is no requirement for a subsequent visit. However, centres know that they can request a follow-up visit if required. Centres are also free to email Christine or phone her with any queries they have following her visit particularly if they have not yet started delivering the course at the time. Questions and issues frequently arise when they sit down to start planning delivery. All new centres are  also added to Christine’s mailing list and receive the same updates that are sent out to ETPs and Early Developers  (a group of centres who began delivery in September 2015) so they can keep up to date with any new initiatives relating to Core Maths.

New centres also become part of the cluster that Christine oversees in her role as  a CML. Through the cluster they have continued access to a network of support from other centres some of whom are also just beginning to deliver Core Maths, and some of whom are more established in terms of delivery. Christine stresses that having this continued support enables centres to get the course up and running more quickly than they otherwise would.  Christine also puts the centres in contact with those schools and colleges closest to them who are teaching Core Maths.

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Challenges for CMLs

Teachers obviously have full timetables and often struggle to fit a meeting with Christine into their diary. Even agendas for departmental meetings are usually quite full. This can make setting up that first meeting quite challenging. By offering as much flexibility as possible in terms of meeting times, including being willing to visit centres early in the morning or late in the afternoon, Christine has found that meetings are usually possible.

Some centres in the region that Christine knows are delivering Core Maths have not responded to her efforts to contact them. She finds this disappointing as at the very least they are missing out on sharing the resources that her cluster has put together.

One of the other challenges Christine has encountered in her role as CML is shifting the mindset teachers have about Core Maths. Many of those who have taught the Use of Maths course see Core Maths as very similar. Christine addresses this by taking time to explain the differences between the two, including the fact that Core Maths requires higher level thinking skills. She also outlines how it focuses more on the application of mathematics and discusses the positive impact it can have on students’ other subjects.  

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Advice for CMLs

Having been a CML for over a year, Christine has the following advice for other CMLs:

  • Get yourself and your role known in your local area
  • When you go out to visit supply as much information and guidance as possible. Also make sure the centre knows they can come back to you at any time for further information.
  • Really focus on building relationships and a good rapport so that the centres trust you and therefore are open to receiving the support and advice you can give them

If you are interested in finding the CML who is working with schools and colleges in your area, see the ‘where we teach’ section of the Core Maths website.

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