Chinese teachers lead maths mastery lessons at Birmingham primary through DfE-scheme

Two teachers from Shanghai have been leading classes at a Birmingham primary school as part of a DfE-funded programme to develop maths teaching in England.

Mingming and Wang Fei spent two weeks at Slade Primary School running maths mastery lessons, which were each observed by over 50 UK teachers, headteachers and representatives from the DfE and National Centre for Excellence in the Teaching of Mathematics (NCETM).

Head Helen Hastilow, left, and Clare Williams, right, welcome the teachers

“It’s to deepen our understanding of how we can take what works in places like Shanghai, and how we can adapt that and make that appropriate for our curriculum,” explained Clare Williams, the school’s strategic maths leader. “We’re looking really carefully at how they represent mathematical concepts, and the way they design their lessons.”

The teachers’ visit came as part of the DfE’s China-England Teacher Exchange programme, which is coordinated by NCETM. Slade Primary was selected as one of 70 host schools in the UK.

You can’t progress in China as a teacher unless you’ve participated in hundreds of hours of CPD

“You can’t progress in China as a teacher unless you’ve participated in hundreds of hours of CPD, and had lots of open lessons. They then start to mentor other teachers and do more open lessons.

It’s a very good model of development really,” explained Williams, who was selected as one of 70 teachers to visit Shanghai last September through the programme, and lead maths lessons in Chinese schools.

The school has already been implementing elements of the Chinese teaching approach over the last two years, giving staff more CPD opportunities, and scrapping ability setting in favour of mixed-ability groups across all subjects.

“We don’t label our children – we teach the whole class together. We try and make sure that all children are moving through the national curriculum at broadly the same pace,” Williams said. “It’s not an easy thing to do in a school and it takes time. If you’ve always taught classes in ability groups with different work for different children, it’s a very big shift to go to paired ability groups where the children are learning from each other.”