Diagnosing and intervening effectively: a small scale study

    Published: 13 March 2019

    Ashleigh Calver is Assistant Head, maths subject leader and Year 3 teacher at Longlands Primary School, Broxbourne.  In this guest blog, she shares her reflections on the impact of the Diagnosing and Intervening Effectively Project, which focused on supporting more effective maths intervention.

    How did the project change the way that you approach maths intervention in your school?

    The project gave us an opportunity to re-think and refine our approach to maths interventions in our school.

    As maths subject lead, the project made me consider how to make the impact of maths interventions more measurable. Also to ensure that maths interventions are short and effective to avoid intervention fatigue and avoid the same pupils always missing the same afternoon learning. 

    Prior to engaging with the intervention project our interventions consisted of: the number box, pre-teaching using Essential Maths and overlearning with targeted pupils to secure key concepts from the day’s maths. While these are all worthwhile and effective interventions, as a school, we wanted to make sure the impact of maths interventions are measurable, make best use of the time available and targets individual needs. Being able to effectively target gaps outside class teaching would be extremely beneficial. Although overlearning is effective and links to in class learning, it requires the TA delivering the intervention to be present during the day’s maths lesson and good teacher organisation to identify target pupils and prepare for their needs ready for the afternoon intervention. This then needs to be communicated with the TA. We have also found that it is often the same pupils being targeted for never ending maths interventions. 

    As a result of the project, I was looking to easily identify gaps in pupils’ knowledge, develop pupils maths confidence, improve TA subject knowledge and be able to apply ideas to replicate across different year groups.

    During the Diagnosing and Intervening Effectively Project, schools were provided with two sets of HfL created resources: a sequence of diagnostic questions to expose gaps in mathematical knowledge in place value and also the associated teaching guidance to support closure of these gaps. In addition, the project provided schools with training in the successful use of the diagnostic assessments to create individualised interventions using the provided teaching guidance and support for effective implementation.

    What impact did you notice?

    The impact has been noted across the school. The TA who initially delivered the sessions has grown in confidence, her maths subject knowledge has grown and she can recognise and talk about the impact she is having on the pupils’ learning. She is taking more ownership over the intervention, deciding how it progresses and the best resources to suit the individual learners’ needs and thus needing less direction from the class teacher. This effective TA support has also fed into intervention within lessons.

    The pupils who participated in the intervention were motivated, engaged and confident throughout. This was reflected in their class attitude towards their maths learning.  Pupils improved their understanding in the place value gaps identified and both made accelerated progress narrowing the attainment gap.

    At the start of the project, Pupil A had gaps in number magnitude scoring 75% in this area on the HFL diagnostic. The intervention targeted these gaps and when retested at the end of the intervention Pupil A scored 92% in number magnitude. The independent diagnostic test also highlighted gaps in number magnitude: pre-intervention Pupil A scored 62% and scored 100% post intervention.

    The intervention gave Pupil A invaluable opportunities to rehearse mathematical language. In the task below, Pupil A identified the midpoint as 10 so placed the cube just after and with prompting he then considered what else he could work out to check his accuracy. Thinking about the number that is halfway between 0 and 10, he worked out each section was worth 5 and decided to move his counter closer to the 15 benchmark recognising 14 was closer to 15 than 10.

    pupil magnitude work
    Figure 1 Pupil A could identify benchmarks more confidently


    In a further intervention task on another day, Pupil A was given the opportunity to apply and deepen this knowledge by working out a missing number and placing it on a different unmarked number line. This was great progress as prior to the intervention he did not have efficient strategies to place numbers on unmarked number lines and struggled to verbalise his thinking.

    pupil magnitude work
    Figure 2: Pupil A could work out a missing number and plot on a number line with a different end value


    Child B had gaps in counting and number sense scoring 25% (counting) 60% (number sense) on the HFL diagnostic. After the intervention the positive impact was evident with Pupil B scoring 75% (counting) and 100% (number sense). This progress was supported by the independent assessment. In addition, it was observed that this child can now subitise; is not over reliant on one to one counting and can see the relationship to benchmarks. Child B was new to the school and it was noted during the diagnostic that he was unfamiliar with a lot of the manipulatives and pictorial representations. The intervention allowed him to develop his confidence and mathematical knowledge using manipulatives to assist and represent calculations. This had an impact on his classroom learning as he could apply what he had learnt and approached his in class maths work with increased confidence, more frequently working independently.

    pupil number sense work
    Figure 3 an example of Pupil B's independent work during the intervention

    What helped you to be able to achieve this impact?

    The intervention helped to build on pupils’ previous maths knowledge and build pupils’ maths confidence. Tasks were well planned and focused learning helping the adult to quickly prepare resources and consider questioning. The ideas and questioning helped pupils’ to think outside the box to solve the problems or correct themselves. Speaking frames were very helpful, building pupils’ vocabulary naturally within tasks.

    The wealth of resources provided by HFL and the communication between the teacher and TA allowed all involved to feel confident. The diagnostic test was easy to administer, the guidance and follow up questions were extremely useful. The gaps that the diagnostic highlighted gave us a good base to start building our interventions – one child was new to the school, he was struggling in class and it was obvious he had some gaps in his learning.  Conversations between myself and the TA leading the intervention ensured a personalised intervention plan targeting individual gaps was developed. The TA delivering the intervention was open to learning and trying something new. She was organised in her approach preparing all resources before starting the intervention.  The pupils engaged well with the HFL resources. The CPA approach linked back to in class learning and allowed pupils to feel confident with their maths learning in the classroom. The question teacher guidance was useful to identify tasks and ideas of how to plug gaps. It was good for all involved to have a model of what the task should look like and the resources to use so the intervention ran smoothly and efficiently with minimal teacher input, this allowed for the TA to take greater ownership. The place value intervention ran for 6 weeks with diagnostic test and impact being measured in this time which made the intervention manageable for both the TA and the pupils.

    What are going to be your next steps as a school?

    Our next steps as a school are to share the place value project resources with KS1 and continue to develop our maths interventions. Being part of the place value project was a great starting point to develop our maths interventions. We were not looking for an off the shelf, one size fits all approach and recognise that this will take time to develop. Our initial next step will be to ensure staff acquire training so they are confident running the place value intervention and it has the same impact in KS1 as in Year 3. I would like all TAs to feel well equipped and confident with their maths subject knowledge to take more ownership over maths interventions across the school.

    As maths subject lead, I have also taken some key concepts from the place value project to replicate across the school and I am working alongside the SENDCo to develop whole school interventions. I have worked alongside teachers and TAs using the HFL assessments to identify pupils, inform gaps in pupil’s knowledge and create bespoke intervention plans to suit the needs of the learners addressing any gaps from the autumn term.

    We are still in the early phases and moving forward as our interventions develop it would be great to share good practise across the school.

    Research projects

    Diagnosing and intervening effectively - Place Value (Year 3)


    Gill Shearsby-Fox and Siobhan King are the lead advisers for the Diagnosing and Intervening Effectively Project.  This is a project aimed at supporting LKS2 teachers and their pupils.  

    Contact details

    Latest blogs

    Receive our latest posts direct to your inbox...