Sparx Maths

Developing homework culture with Sparx Maths at Trinity Academy Leeds

Trinity Academy Leeds, a secondary school located in the Richmond Hill area of Leeds, opened its doors three years ago.

Equipping its students with mathematical fluency and confidence was central to the academy’s vision. With 240 students in each year group and a diverse cohort from 56 different feeder primary schools, the school faced the challenges of establishing strong academic foundations while navigating the complexities of opening a new school.

The school is located in an area of relatively high deprivation with 65% of its pupils eligible for Pupil Premium funding. The Head of the Maths Department is William Weston who, as part of his role, started their journey with Sparx Maths Homework at the beginning of the 2022-2023 academic year, one year after the academy had opened its doors.

Challenges before Sparx Maths

The school has worked hard to create an uncomplicated and efficient homework process at KS3. Trinity Academy Leeds’ school leaders had experience of several areas in which homework was proving problematic and they were keen not to fall into any of those traps when designing the start-up school’s systems.

Leaders were all too aware of how traditional homework methods can prove difficult to track and manage, leading to inconsistencies in completion rates and - resultantly - high teacher workload; TAL’s leaders sensed the urgency of establishing effective homework practices from the outset.

Developing a robust homework culture across the school was a central priority for the academy; this shift began with an emphasis on maths.

Their aspirational maths department developed a vision named ‘Mission Mathematician’; underpinning this vision was the belief that all students deserve to ‘compete at that table’ and that it was the school’s duty to support their learners to develop independent working habits, undaunted mathematical skill, resilience and perseverance.

The decision to use Sparx Maths

Recognising the profound need for a solution, Trinity Academy Leeds implemented Sparx Maths after its first year, having previously used Hegarty Maths.

In their typically thoughtful and deliberate approach to implementation, the academy set out to integrate Sparx Maths into its curriculum, focusing on creating a culture where mathematics became a central part of students' identities.

The school emphasises the importance of making students ‘feel like mathematicians, speak like mathematicians, and ultimately, think like mathematicians.’

“Now that we have moved to Sparx I think that has really addressed a lot of those challenges and enabled us to be confident in the fact that the work we are setting is appropriate, is challenging and is something that all the students can access”

Embedding Sparx Maths

Trinity Academy Leeds’ rapid success comes from fully embedding Sparx Maths into its culture by securing buy-in and conviction from both staff and students across the school. The school has engaged both team leaders - who are not necessarily maths teachers - and team ambassadors to oversee centralised homework completion, creating a sense of collective responsibility.

Sparx Maths has become something of a focal point, with reminders and support integrated into various aspects of school life, such as assemblies, public leaderboards and even giving pupils tongue-in-cheek nudges in the dining hall, where there is signage on the serving hatch at lunchtime reminding students to complete their Sparx Maths homework!

“All the students are aware of that because everyone is talking to them about it. Our chef, for example, has a sign on top of his servery that says 'Have you completed your Sparx Maths?' We do feed them even if it hasn't been done!”

Continued success and support

To maintain momentum, Trinity Academy Leeds implements ongoing campaigns and support initiatives. Social media campaigns like "Operation 100" - 100% completion every week - set targets for homework completion, which keeps students motivated and engaged, and makes homework habits easier to sustain.

They also encourage a healthy competitive culture through daily cross-academy Sparx updates. The school provides additional support for students facing challenges accessing the platform, ensuring inclusivity and equity in homework completion. Support sessions run formally each Monday, and any pupil who has not reached 100% completion automatically qualifies for a weekly catch-up on a Friday.

“We have created, or tried to create, a competitive culture around it so that students want to get 100% for their team, they want to get it for their year group and we have tried to put in a culture around that of competition and of success, but also provide support for students where we know that is going to be tricky.”

Extension of homework culture

The success of Sparx Maths in establishing a reliable, visible and efficient homework culture led to the adoption of Sparx Reader by the English department; this has resulted in slick, centralised messaging around homework for staff and students for both their maths and reading homework: homework now feels achievable, integrated and impactful.

The school's ‘One Curriculum’ approach - where knowledge and skills interrelate across all disciplines - emphasises the importance of every staff member contributing to student success, with Sparx Maths serving as a model for future initiatives aimed at cultivating independent learning, leading to academic achievement.

“Home learning and Sparx Maths really fits under that approach of One Curriculum where the expectations we are putting in now for students, where they are completing their Sparx Maths will help History teachers in KS4 because they are in good home learning habits.”

Student and Parental response

Students see Sparx Maths as a positive change from traditional homework methods. Over time, it has become an integral part of their routine, reflected in consistently high completion rates, despite an increase in the length of the homework in Y9.

Pupils also recognise that the challenge and rigour has increased now that they are using Sparx Maths. Parents appreciate the transparency and communication that Sparx Maths offers, facilitating informed discussions about their child's progress.

“I think parents really like having the emails to remind them of how their students are getting on - it just allows that kind of informed conversation during the week.”

Favourite aspects of Sparx Maths

For curriculum leaders, the detailed data Sparx Maths provides proves invaluable for tracking student progress and informing decision-making.

Teachers appreciate the supportive resources, particularly the quality of the instructional videos, which means their pupils can build resilience and take responsibility for their learning... Further, students enjoy the interactive elements, such as times tables practice, enhancing their mathematical skills in an engaging manner.

“I think the data that Sparx can produce for us as leaders is really, really valuable and to have that kind of top-down approach we can see who is completing, who's not completing, the history of that and how that's looking per team, per year group and that forensic level of data has been great for us.”

Recommendations to other schools

Trinity Academy Leeds encourages other schools to adopt Sparx Maths as a tool for promoting independent learning and reducing teacher workload.

“In terms of reducing workload for staff, it's been a real step change for us in terms of us being able to manage and be confident in what we are setting being impactful but without that taking up a lot of teacher time.”

The comprehensive support and data-driven approach provided by the system helps staff to deliver high-quality homework effectively while fostering a culture of academic excellence.

“If you are interested in a platform that can help students to develop their independence with maths, to get them to access high quality maths practice each week with a lot of data and support available for staff, I would say that Sparx Maths is an absolute must.”

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