Focus4TAPS Trial – Research to Develop Practice in Primary Science

EEF, Wellcome Trust, UCL & Bath Spa University – 2019 to 2020

This research aimed to trial the Focus4TAPS intervention: a one-year package of training and resources delivered by Bath Spa University. Focus4TAPS aims to support teaching, learning and assessment in primary science. The programme draws together research from the Teacher Assessment in Primary Science (TAPS) project, which is funded by the Primary Science Teaching Trust.

The Education Endowment Foundation and the Wellcome Trust funded this independent evaluation by the UCL Institute of Education, which took the form of a randomised control trial. The trial compared Focus4TAPS against other teaching in comparable primary schools.

The trial focused on our Year 5 pupils, during the 2019-2020 academic year, with our Year 5 teacher and science subject leader attending training.


Examining Handwriting Readiness in Children (Reception and Year 1)
Brunel University – June 2019

What was the purpose of this study?
Despite the increasing use of computers, handwriting is required for a large portion of the school day and is an important skill for progress in school. Difficulties with handwriting are frequently reported to be one of the most common barriers to performance in school aged children, so it is important that we understand the development of the skill in more detail. This research project aimed to examine handwriting ‘readiness’ in children at the beginning of their education to help develop a clearer understanding of whether a child is ‘ready’ to write and what are the factors that relate to this.

Who organised and funded this research?
The Principal Investigator of this research was Dr Mellissa Prunty – who is based in the Division of Occupational Therapy at Brunel University London. MSc Occupational Therapy students, from Brunel University, conducted the research within our school – supported by staff.

Embracing Additional Needs Research Project

Hillingdon Innovations and Improvement Network (INN) – 2017 to 2018

This project explored how we can make sure that all children with SEN Support experience an education that is carefully matched to their needs and which allows them to fulfil their potential? It looked in detail at SEN Support cohorts and considered how schools are meeting their needs following the Code of Practice changes.

This project, led by Meadow SEN School and Brunel University, was carried out in ten schools, across Hillingdon, (including St. Mary’s Catholic Primary School) with support from the LA Inclusion Team.

Each school identified an individual research opportunity within their organisation and then used video technology (Iris Connect) to share good practice and reflection across participant settings. This involved uploading videos of SEN practice onto the Iris Connect website with discussion of the strategies used. This group met later in the year to feedback on the use of the Iris Connect platform in enhancing practice and supporting pupils with additional needs. An Action Plan was then developed exploring how technology can be used to support SEN pupils across all local schools. Good practice was feedback across the Hillingdon LA – supported by the LA Inclusion Team.


National Award for Special Educational Needs Co-ordination (NASENCo)

Hillingdon Cohort Action Research – 2016 to 2017

We worked alongside Satwinder Saraon (UCL Institute of Education) to advertise and host a locally based NASENCo programme facilitating action research across local schools. Practitioner research was carried out across the following two modules:

Module 1 – Developing SEN Co-ordination – Improving Learning and Teaching

Participants used theory and research to plan and review the effectiveness of a particular SEN intervention. The success of these interventions were shared across the group and SENCo network meetings further afield.

Module 2 – Developing SEN Co-ordination – Leading and Managing Change

This involved applying a theoretical understanding of change management to current practice. Projects included changing the deployment of TAs, improving communication between teachers and support staff and developing the involvement of parents in planning, implementing and reviewing support.


Mathematical Thinking Project

Brunel University – 2015 to 2016

We carried out a ‘Mathematical Thinking’ project led by Dr Ray Huntley from Brunel University. This active research took place at both St. Mary’s and St. Catherine’s Catholic Schools. The research at St. Mary’s focused on developing the most effective ways to extend the very able through problem solving, fluency and reasoning.


Mathematics is a way of describing and measuring the world, and we all begin to think mathematically from the day we are born. Unfortunately, as many of us progressed through school, the routines and methods used may have influenced our notions of what mathematical thinking entails, as we become ‘bogged down’ in the chase for right answers and good grades. The purpose of this research is to revive those earlier notions of thinking mathematically by engaging in a variety of activities and discussions which will shed light on the processes of mathematics, rather than the more easily measurable products.

The mathematical thinking project will begin by considering the very nature of such thinking and how it develops. It will then develop a number of sub-strands which will enhance an understanding of key mathematical ideas and develop an awareness of how mathematical thinking permeates children’s learning.

By considering some theoretical approaches to observing mathematics in action in classrooms, and through an engagement with a range of activities and tasks, we will develop a deeper understanding of the ways in which teachers can directly influence the growth of mathematical thinking in primary children. This will be done through taught sessions at Brunel University to introduce the theoretical aspects, school visits to observe teaching and learning of mathematics in action and self-study, working towards an assessed project.

An emphasis of the strand will be on using mathematics in problem solving situations. Problem solving is one of the three aims of the mathematics curriculum, along with fluency and reasoning. This will involve engaging in problem solving tasks and identifying the key strategies used in moving towards solutions. This will take the form of paired or small group activities in which mixed abilities will be seen as a help and not a hindrance to effective learning for all.

Critical analysis of research into children’s learning of mathematics will be a dominant feature of this enhancement which will include school-based work with groups of pupils to develop awareness of children’s learning.  Visits to local schools to observe mathematics teaching and learning will enhance the context of the module. The module will incorporate a blend of university sessions and several visits to St. Mary’s and St. Catherine’s where students will work in classrooms, observing and supporting learning.

After completing this strand, students will have developed a broad understanding in the following areas:

  • The nature of mathematical thinking
  • Connections and coherence in mathematical learning
  • Variation theory and the choice and use of mathematical examples
  • The Knowledge Quartet – a framework for mathematics teaching
  • Teacher development through the discipline of noticing


Developing CPD for the new Maths Curriculum

NCETM 2014

Our Senior Leadership Team worked with the NCETM to research CPD that was needed to support the introduction of the new National Curriculum in 2014. This included a review of the published requirements and a survey of local Head Teachers to highlight the training need. As a result of this research we planned and offered training courses in the following areas (please see our ‘Past Courses’ section for more details):

  • Good to Outstanding Maths Lessons
  • Leading the New Primary Maths National Curriculum
  • Achieve Level 6 Maths
  • Problem Solving and Challenge for the More Able (separate sessions for Years 1 to 6)
  • Numicon Taster Sessions
  • Mastery and Depth in the New Maths National Curriculum