The EEF tested 1stclass@number, a programme delivered by teaching assistants which provides intensive support for pupils struggling with maths. We funded this project because it has been used by over 4,000 schools and a similar intervention, Numbers Count, has strong evidence of impact.
An intensive 10-week numeracy intervention delivered by teaching assistants
University of Oxford
Feedback & monitoring pupil progress
Our evaluation found that pupils who received 1stclass@number made, on average, two additional months’ progress in maths. This result has a high security rating. However, there was no evidence that this progress translated into an impact on KS1 maths outcomes. This could be because the simple five point scale available for the KS1 measure is less sensitive to change than the headline maths measure used in the trial, or because the KS1 measure tests a broader range of skills than those taught in 1stClass@Number, and so the impact is diluted.
The headline finding adds to the growing evidence base supporting the use of teaching assistants to deliver high-quality, structured interventions to pupils who are falling behind. The EEF’s guidance report, Making Best Use of Teaching Assistants provides clear and actionable guidance on how to put this evidence into practice. This finding is promising enough that the EEF and the Every Child Counts team will discuss the potential for further development, testing and scaling up of the intervention.
Pupils who received 1stClass@Number made two months’ additional progress in maths, on average, compared to pupils in the control group. This result has a high security rating.
The primary result was not statistically significant. This means that, in this trial, even if the intervention had not had an impact, the probability that just by chance we would have observed an effect size as large as the one found is greater than 5%.
Pupils who received 1stClass@Number did not perform better in the end-of-KS1 maths test, on average, than pupils in the control group. This could be because the headline maths measure used in the trial was more sensitive than the simple five point scale available for the end-of-KS1 maths test, or because it tests specifically those skills taught in 1stClass@Number.
Among pupils eligible for free schools meals, those who received the intervention did not make any additional progress in maths compared to pupils in the control group. This result has lower security than the overall result because of the smaller number of pupils.
The intervention was implemented as intended by the developer: most TAs and Link Teachers attended most training sessions, and most of the TAs observed during the evaluation followed the written lesson plans closely.
Full project description
1stClass@Number was developed by the Every Child Counts (ECC) team at Edge Hill University to support pupils who are struggling with mathematics. The ECC team trained teaching assistants (TAs) to deliver highly scripted lessons to small groups of up to four children. The programme is normally implemented outside of mathematics lessons in other lesson time. It covers five basic mathematics topics: the number system, place value, addition, subtraction, and multiplication. The lessons include the teaching of procedures (for example, counting on, counting up to, counting backwards, and counting in twos and in fives), mathematical signs (+, -, =) and mathematical language and concepts (such as more, less, and equal). Schools are advised to deliver 30 lessons of approximately half an hour, usually three times a week for ten weeks, and are encouraged to deliver additional sessions for pupils who need them. A classroom teacher colleague (the “Link Teacher”) is expected to meet the TA once a week to help them review and plan upcoming lessons, and provide feedback.
1stClass@Number was evaluated using a randomised controlled trial. 133 schools in South and West Yorkshire each nominated four children in Year 2 to participate in the project. The schools were then randomly assigned either to receive the intervention or to continue with their normal teaching in Year 2 and receive the opportunity to implement another ECC intervention with a different year group. The primary outcome for the trial was the Quantitative Reasoning Test, which focuses on number knowledge and mathematical problem solving, and the secondary outcome was performance in end-of-KS1 maths tests. A process evaluation collected additional data through observations, questionnaires, and phone interviews. The recruitment of schools began in September 2015 and the research completed in July 2017. The implementation of the intervention took place, approximately, between September 2016 and February 2017.