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Interview by Governor Mona Adams - New maths leader sums up pluses and minuses

posted 9 Nov 2016, 07:52 by Michele Colt   [ updated 14 Nov 2016, 04:42 by Phil Broughton ]
There is a feeling that job-hunting in these uncertain post-Brexit days is no stroll in the park – but Lee Ainscough has good reason to disagree. It was while walking back to the main road from those Royal acres of our local parkland that he found himself passing a 'very nice looking school', made a mental note of its name and resolved to investigate staff vacancies. As luck would have it, an interesting one arose quite quickly. 
The school? Richmond Park Academy. The vacancy? Head of maths.The successful candidate? Yes, you've guessed …

Having been director of maths for a total of six years at two other academies, Lee Ainscough was ready to move on. He explains in more detail why he was attracted to RPA:  'I looked at the league tables, recognised that there was a challenge here and I liked that.  Before I applied for the job, I came to the school to see if it felt as good as it looked. It did. During my learning walk, I was particularly struck by the calm atmosphere around the campus and by the reflection of that in the students. Another thing that both interested and intrigued me was that the data didn't seem to reflect what I was seeing. Bright students, talented staff.  There was so much obvious potential here and the opportunity to help expand that was very attractive.  Now that I'm here, I can see that this is a great department with a core of really good teachers. With that amount of talent, it can be even better.  We need to look at that data forensically to see how best to build on what we've got'.

Although only a term into the job, Mr Ainscough has already observed that one of the things his team can do to imbue students with the confidence to expand their classroom learning is to give them material they can make use of at home. 'It is important for students to learn how to work individually from an early age because that's what 6th form and university success is all about. To make that happen, we have to provide the right starting point for learning, building trust in an atmosphere where questions are welcomed, ability recognised and achievement maximised'.

According to our new maths leader, the importance of parental support cannot be over-estimated. He has asked parents to work with him to ensure that set homework is completed and that, from Yr 9, practicing questions from past GCSE papers – an element of that all-important  student ownership of independent learning  -  is encouraged. He has also alerted parents of Year 11 students to the increased challenge in 2017  -  'the most difficult maths exam in the last 10 years' – and of the new maths specification, sharing with them a topic list and some of the best maths websites.

'It is important', Mr Ainscough says ' to expose students early to the rigours of exams so that they become familiar with exam techniques. One of my priorities is to make sure we are all clear about test requirements and know how to deliver best results. I am a progressive classroom teacher but old-fashioned about exam preparation, walking and talking through test scenarios as often as possible'.   

Under Mr Ainscough's direction, maths will be accessible, enjoyable and personal success achievable – but he is very clear about one thing.  It will be no stroll in the park.