Idea 1 from Shanghai: same day pupil intervention

Julie Gallimore, a Specialist Leader of Education (SLE) at BTSA, from St Edward’s Academy school in Leek, looks back at her recent prestigious teacher exchange with a partner school in Shanghai. This is the first in a series of articles that Julie has written, focusing on what she learnt from the trip.


Every late Autumn the PISA and TIMSS tables are published and newspapers start their annual round of how the teaching in the UK lags behind that of the Far Eastern countries. Whilst we do lag behind them in these tests we are above of many European countries and the USA at around midway in the table. The government is currently funding research into the Far Eastern methods and what we can learn to improve our results. In November I was fortunate to be one of the teachers who went to Shanghai to spend two weeks at a school in Shanghai. Whilst people will argue that the Chinese culture and work ethic is different from the UK, there is still much we can take from China to improve what we do in our schools and they also want to learn from us.

Same day pupil intervention and keeping children up with the class

A headline in one of the national newspapers really struck a chord with me that said “Mastery is this the new differentiation? Why do we expect less of some children.” Cockroft said in the 1980’s that by the age of eleven the gap in attainment between the most and the least able is seven years. I wonder if that gap is any closer now; I doubt it. We have booster classes usually in Year 2 and Year 6, catch up in Year 7 but what if those children never got behind in the first place? That is the philosophy of the Chinese teachers. Every lesson has a single tiny step forward in learning, the teachers start their planning with the thought ‘by the end of today I want the children to know…’ and after the practise session if the child doesn’t know then intervention is put in place that day to ensure that they are ready to move forward the following day with the rest of the class.

We watched a Grade 1 lesson (6 year olds) on subtracting within twenty. The focus of the 35 minute lesson was for the children to understand that whilst 14 – 1, 14- 2, 14- 3, 14-4 did not require the ten to be broken up 14 – 5 did require the children to break up the bundle of ten they had in front of them.

Idea 1 from Shanghai: same day pupil intervention

The children had bundles of ten sticks and 4 single sticks and they were required to perform the calculations above using the sticks. As soon as they had to subtract 5 they all realised they needed to break up the ten to remove one of the sticks.

The thing that struck us was that the children didn’t count to find the answer…they knew the number of sticks without counting, a skill all children should develop called subitising (the ability to know that the number of objects without counting, we can do up to 6 the we start to pattern). In the 35 minute slot the teacher established that most children had understood her objective but a couple of pupils were struggling and made provision for her to see those children later in the school day to intervene and bring their understanding up to the level of the others.

She anticipated that it would be done quite easily with a one to small group session thus ensuring they didn’t fall behind.

That philosophy is something I aspire to, the challenge for us will be fitting that into an already full day.

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