The EEF tested Maths Champions, a programme designed to develop maths teaching in early years settings by supporting a practitioner (the “Maths Champion”) to design and implement an action plan for improving maths teaching. The National Day Nurseries Association supports the Maths Champion with CPD, online resources, and one-to-one advice.
Supporting nursery staff to develop children’s early numeracy
Durham University, The York Trials Unit
Staff deployment & development
We funded this programme because children’s early maths ability is correlated with attainment in maths and other subjects in later life. Maths is also an area that many early years settings struggle with, and where the gap between disadvantaged children and their peers is particularly large.
The security of the evaluation was weakened by the fact some pupils were not included in the final analysis because they were not tested when the intervention ended. However, there was some evidence that pupils involved in the programme made greater progress in maths. The intervention is relatively cheap in terms of the financial cost, but some participants felt the burden on staff time was a potential barrier to implementation.
The EEF will use these findings to inform our current work on early years professional development and wider work in this sector.
Children who participated in Maths Champions made the equivalent of two additional months’ progress in maths, on average, compared to children in the comparison group. This result has low security and should be treated with caution.
The impact of the intervention did not appear to be affected by pupils’ eligibility for the Early Years Pupil Premium.
The trial found suggestive but inconclusive evidence that Maths Champions improved the quality of maths provision in participating nurseries.
A third of nurseries taking part in Maths Champions were very or partially engaged with all core features of the intervention.
Most nurseries were positive about Maths Champions and its impact on settings and children. However, some also raised the burden on nursery staff time as a potential issue.
Full project description
Maths Champions aims to improve the maths skills of children in private, voluntary and independent (PVI) early years settings. It is a one-year programme developed and delivered by the National Day Nurseries Association (NDNA), supported in this project by Sandra Mathers and Dr Maria Evangelou at the University of Oxford.
Each setting nominates a graduate practitioner to be a “Maths Champion”. NDNA provides each Maths Champion with two, two-hour online courses on auditing early years maths teaching and leading the programme in their setting. The Maths Champions then audit their nursery’s current practices, staff confidence, and the current mathematical competence of both staff and children using tools provided online. The Maths Champions are expected to use the results of the audit to create an action plan for supporting their colleagues to improve their maths teaching. They implement this plan with support from online resources, short monthly webinars and tailored one-to-one support provided by NDNA. At the end of the programme, the Math Champions repeat the initial audit to gauge their setting’s improvement.
Maths Champions was evaluated using a randomised controlled trial (RCT). 108 nurseries were randomly allocated to either participate in Maths Champions or continue with their “business as usual” provision. The primary outcome was performance on a maths test of children who were three years old at the start of the programme. A process evaluation used case studies, surveys, interviews with the project delivery team, observation, and consideration of monitoring data collected by NDNA. The evaluation took place between May 2016 and August 2017, with most nursery settings allocated to the intervention group completing the audits between August and October 2016 and delivering Maths Champions between September/October 2016 and June/July 2017. It was preceded by a small-scale pilot, which involved 6 PVI nurseries and lasted from January 2016 until April 2016.
This project was jointly funded by the EEF and the Stone Family Foundation.