Sparx Maths

Star Academies Trust - consistency, support and engagement through Sparx across the Trust

Star Academies Trust, a national chain of 23 secondary schools, spans many regions across the UK including: Birmingham, Coventry, Lancashire, Manchester, London and Bradford. Many of the schools in the trust are situated in areas with high levels of deprivation and a significant proportion of their intakes qualify for pupil premium funding.

Despite these challenges, schools in the MAT have developed a consistently successful approach to maths homework. Around half the schools in the Star Academies Trust have a completion rate above 90% thanks to a unified, coherent and unapologetically rigorous approach to implementation.

The Trust Lead for Mathematics is Richard Deakin. Richard and his team have overcome significant challenges around homework management and have instilled uniform excellence in mathematics education across their schools.

By implementing Sparx Maths, the trust aimed to streamline homework practices and elevate the quality of maths instruction across its schools.

Challenges in Homework Management

Before adopting Sparx Maths, Star Academies Trust faced obstacles in monitoring and standardising homework assignments. Varying quality and lack of consistency hindered effective homework management across the trust's diverse educational landscape. Some of the complications that the trust faced were: securing visibility of what pupils were doing independently; huge variability in terms of completion rates for pupils with differing records of prior attainment; conflicting methods and homework setting practices and systems in schools across the trust.

"The first thing Sparx has done is provide consistency - I know that the homework meets the Trust's Scheme of Work because there is a Trust Scheme of Work and all 20 schools follow that scheme of work."

Implementing Sparx Maths

Richard stresses that measured and careful implementation, when setting out, has been crucial to their successful Sparx Maths experience. Initially, their priority was to train teachers and school leaders fully in every aspect of the product. Part of that process was to expose everyone to the profound impact that Sparx Maths was having in other, similar schools, to make it tangible and seem accessible.

As a further dimension of the implementation process, Richard ensured that the first week’s worth of homework was completed in school, in a supervised capacity, to confirm students are confident in their independent navigation of the systems. Additionally, parents are invited in and shown how Sparx Maths works and how they can support their children to get into strong learning habits.

Impact of Sparx Maths

The integration of Sparx Maths ushered in a wholesale shift in homework management and mathematics education at Star Academies Trust. The platform's personalised approach and alignment with the trust's curriculum empowered teachers to deliver high-quality, tailored homework tasks to students of all abilities.

"What Sparx has allowed it to do is make it personalised so it learns the ability of the students and it will adapt it to the needs of that student, stretching the homework for the top end and providing support and scaffolding for the students at the lower end as well."

Trust Approach to Sparx Maths

Star Academies Trust implemented a structured approach to Sparx Maths Homework, emphasising consistency and accountability. By setting clear expectations and promoting Sparx Maths integration across multiple platforms, the trust cultivated a culture of academic excellence and engagement. Effective implementation of Sparx Maths required comprehensive training for staff and active engagement with students and parents. By ensuring buy-in and providing ongoing support, the trust successfully integrated Sparx Maths into its educational framework.

The robust structures that are in place for the schools in the Star network have meant that Sparx Maths has been fully integrated into the fabric of the schools’ routines; an example of this would be that homework is set on the same day in all of the schools in the network, and those homeworks dovetail with the trust’s common curriculum.

It's consistency that breeds habits and Sparx allows that. It feeds into the whole school culture - across our schools you will see Sparx advertised everywhere be it from in the classroom to the corridors to the assemblies and even parents emails and social media.

Impact on Educational Practice

Sparx Maths was instrumental in creating significant improvements in educational practices within the Star Academies Trust. From creating strategic retrieval opportunities to strengthening problem-solving skills and times table proficiency, the platform enriched students' mathematical learning experiences and knowledge retention across all year groups. Sparx Maths has permeated the culture of Star Academies - it is now an integral part of how the maths departments operate across the trust.

Star Academies Trust instilled a culture of academic excellence by establishing consistent homework deadlines and incentivising student engagement. Through strategic initiatives and rewards for achievement, the trust developed positive study habits and academic resilience among its students.

"It knows our curriculum inside out so it knows what parts of maths students have been taught... and it will help with the retrieval of that curriculum…The second thing it does is help with problem solving so I know for a fact that students are being helped with AO3 Problem solving consistently as part of their homework diet."

Benefits for Teachers

Sparx Maths has alleviated the administrative burden on teachers, enabling them to focus on supporting student learning more strategically and refining their instructional strategies. The platform's intuitive dashboard provided valuable insights for informed decision-making and effective lesson planning.

"Sparx impacts teachers' wellbeing because teachers are having their HW planned and they feel fully assured that the HW planned is of a quality standard. They do not need to mark it - it's marked in seconds and the biggest impact they have is analysing what was the HW they did and did our students struggle in any particular questions."

Enhanced Parental Engagement

Sparx Maths facilitated greater parental involvement in the students' academic journeys by providing visibility of their children’s activity and progress. This collaborative approach has meant that huge gains have been made in creating strong partnerships between parents, students, and educators.

"Sparx allows parents to get a weekly email on their child's HW so each weekend parents can find out how far into their Sparx HW a child has completed and as a result of that it allows parents to get involved on their child's HW and encourage their son or daughter to complete their HW and actually see what their HW is."

Favourite Aspect of Sparx Maths

For Richard Deakin, the mathematics lead at Star Academies Trust, Sparx Maths' comprehensive analytics and data-driven insights are invaluable. These tools enable him to monitor homework completion rates, identify trends, and recognise achievements across the trust's schools.

"As a Trust lead my favourite aspect of Sparx Maths is every week I find out how all my schools have done the previous week on their Sparx HW. At a glance I can find out how all of my school's HW completion rates were and I can drill into that a little more deeply and find out how the year groups are doing at each individual school and how key groups are doing with Sparx HW and challenge schools where HW performance isn't as high as I need it to be."

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