Evaluation of the Mathematics Specialist Teacher (MaST) programme

Matthew Walker, Marian Sainsbury, Suzanne Straw, Jennifer Jeffes, Charlotte Clarke , Graham Thom

14 June 2013

NFER and SQW recently undertook a national evaluation of the Mathematics Specialist Teacher (MaST) Programme. The aim of the programme is to provide each participating teacher or ‘MaST’ with a Masters-level programme of training and professional support in order that they can carry out their mathematics specialist role working with teachers in their school. Commissioned by the Department for Education, the report provides an overview of the implementation and impacts associated with the programme. The report draws on data collected from case-study interviews with staff in 24 primary schools and baseline and endpoint surveys of headteachers, MaSTs, and pupils in Key Stages 1 and 2 as well as survey of pupils and teachers in a comparison group of schools.

Key Findings

  • The balance within the MaST Programme between academic learning and practical application has been very effective and the vast majority of consultees have reported the effectiveness of the practical focus of the programme, as well as its integration of theory with practice.
  • The vast majority of headteachers and MaSTs agreed that the programme had had a positive impact on participating teachers’ confidence and mathematics teaching practice.
  • MaSTs interviewed as part of the case-study visits to schools reported an increased focus in their and colleagues’ lessons on: risk taking and ‘thinking outside of the box’; using questioning and getting pupils to explain their thinking; mental mathematics; and developing pupils’ reasoning and understanding.
  • The evidence for the impact of the programme on pupils was mixed. In the view of the participating teachers, the MaST Programme had made a positive impact on pupils in terms of their enjoyment of and confidence in mathematics. In addition, almost three-quarters of MaSTs reported that their pupils’ attainment has been better over the previous 12 months than expected. However, the analysis of pupil attainment data suggested that this perception has not yet been borne out by national assessment results.
  • The survey evidence suggests that MaSTs’ are now more frequently getting involved in professional development activities to support colleagues with mathematics related professional development activity, and in some cases, considerably more frequently than their counterparts in the comparison group of schools.