Let Teachers SHINE winner 2023: Sam Slingsby – Numeracy Bridger

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A teacher from Blackpool has received funding for a project that aims to improve the numeracy skills of school students who are currently below the average for their age.

Sam Slingsby has been awarded a grant from Let Teachers SHINE, an award scheme run by education charity SHINE that supports teachers with innovative ideas to help disadvantaged students succeed in core subjects.

Sam’s Numeracy Bridger project first received SHINE funding last year, to develop the project at Educational Diversity, the alternative provision school where he teaches. The new grant will allow him to scale up the concept to help students at other schools in Blackpool.

Sam said: “I want to continue the legacy of this intervention and share my resource so as many pupils as possible can have the opportunity to strengthen their fundamental numeracy skills, preparing them for GCSE maths and life beyond school.”

Numeracy Bridger is a series of 30-minute sessions, run one-to-one, or in small groups. The sessions are based on the fundamental numeracy skills that are required to master the GCSE curriculum – addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division.

The sessions also introduce real-life concepts such as house bills, tax, mortgages, and rent.

“It gives students a basic introduction to those topics so they can gain experience of the terminology and understand how fundamental numeracy underpins those budgeting skills they will need in adult life,” explained Sam.

“I work in a large alternative provision school within Blackpool which faces many challenges, including high pupil mobility and transience plus the significant difficulties sustained from the cost-of-living crisis, which is having a profound impact on local families.

“What we find, not just within my alternative provision but across the town, is that a lot of pupils are dropping in and out of the curriculum. This means that when pupils come to learn maths, they’ve got large gaps in their understanding, and they’re missing that prior knowledge of the core skills.

“Numeracy Bridger aims to give pupils the opportunity to both relearn those core concepts that underpin maths and develop numeracy skills that can be used and transferred into real-life situations.”

SHINE’s first grant enabled Sam to “develop, refine and test drive” Numeracy Bridger. It also allowed him to train two teaching assistants to deliver the programme.

The second, larger, grant will mean Sam can introduce Numeracy Bridger in two local secondary schools and develop the real-life elements of the programme.

Sam says his project fits in well with the Prime Minister’s drive to improve maths skills.

“Just the other week the Prime Minister was discussing how schools can better engage 16- to 18-year-olds in numeracy,” he said.

“And Numeracy Bridger is not just about getting a maths qualification, its focus is on ensuring the next generation of students can apply fundamental numeracy concepts in real-life contexts.

“Numeracy is essential for all pupils, not just when studying maths. But students often say that they’re not going to be using trigonometry or abstract maths terms in the real world, when they turn 16. What I try to explain to them is that numeracy is everywhere. It underpins every element of your life, from the clothes that you wear to the food that you buy. And at some point, these pupils are going to be deciding whether it’s better value to rent or to buy. They’re going to need to understand tax and mortgages and how credit works.

“Without focusing on these skills, pupils aren’t going to be able to budget their finances, so they might end up in debt. And they will also be limited in their opportunities to progress in certain areas.”

Sam says he is “absolutely delighted” to have received the funding from Let Teachers SHINE.

“SHINE has been a cornerstone of support, helping a small project develop and now helping to upscale it, so it’s as impactful and as accessible as possible, and so many more pupils can benefit from it.

“That level of genuine support is inspiring. It shows SHINE’s commitment to helping so many young pupils benefit from the programme moving forward.”

Dr Helen Rafferty, Interim CEO of SHINE, said: “We are so pleased to be able to further support Sam in developing his idea to help disadvantaged children with maths, when they may otherwise have struggled.

“Maths is a core and essential skill which unlocks so many opportunities, and brilliant teachers like Sam know how best to support children to grow in confidence and succeed. I’m very much looking forward to seeing the impact of this work shared with other secondary schools.”