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Mastering the journey: a head’s reflection

Diane Hawkes (June 2022)

I have been reflecting on my work and links with the Cambridge Maths Hub and really can’t believe how far I have come and how much Teaching for Mastery has developed in Cambridgeshire and nationally.

Let’s wind back to Autumn 2015 when my deputy, who was the maths lead, came to me and asked to join a new CPD programme run by the Cambridge Maths Hub.

“Cambridge Maths Hub, who are they?”, I replied.

Luckily, I agreed and so our school joined the mastery programme in Autumn 2015 and my deputy attended the work groups run by one of the first trained mastery specialists.

I was so impressed by the Maths Hub colleagues and the impact that the programme had on the maths teaching and learning in our school that when my deputy asked to train as a mastery specialist, I agreed. During the interview process I was approached and asked if I might consider also doing the training and becoming the Maths Mastery Lead for the Hub. My Governors agreed and so I jumped at the chance to be part of an organisation that both excited and inspired me and to be part of a learning programme that I could already see the benefits of. So, in Autumn 2016 I attended the training sessions led by NCETM’s Director of Primary Mathematics, Debbie Morgan – how great to get all the training “straight from the horse’s mouth” as it were.

During my time as mastery lead, I was privileged to have been involved in lots of interviews for securing new colleagues to train as mastery specialists. The chance to visit people in their schools, watch them teach, meet real children outside of my school and meet the headteachers gave me a wealth of new experiences that I could take back to my school. It was also a privilege to know that I was involved in helping the mastery umbrella to widen.

I was also very lucky as in my role I was able to be involved in the UK return part of the Shanghai teacher exchange for three consecutive years; the third year we actually hosted at my school and my deputy went out to Shanghai with another hub colleague. Being able to watch our Chinese colleagues teach, first-hand, was such an experience. These experiences also impacted directly on staff from across Cambridgeshire who were invited along to the showcase lessons. Seeing how the teachers broke down the learning into very small steps, used many examples of variation and got the children chanting the stem sentences and full sentence answers was very impressive.  I kept trying to get an invite to Shanghai – even asking Debbie Morgan when I saw her – but alas…!

In Autumn 2018, I moved schools and was to be a bit busier so I was asked to take on a new role of headteacher advocate for the hub. I agreed and this added another set of experiences. Having been head of two very different schools, in very different circumstances, where mastery was introduced, I was able to talk from first-hand experience to other headteacher colleagues about pitfalls and successes.

Carrying out this advocate role also meant I was still involved in Hub team meetings and LLME (Local Leaders of Mathematics Education) events and meetings which I found so rewarding and refreshing. Nowhere else did I get chance to consistently work alongside such a supportive group of professionals. The Maths Hub team has grown immensely since the early days and many changes of role, CPD programmes, funding and organisation have taken place but the one thing that hasn’t changed is every member’s commitment to improving chances for young people through strong and effective collaboration. I sincerely hope that whatever happens politically the funding for Maths Hubs continues because they are having an impact at  local and national levels.

As I leave to retire to Spain at the end of this term, I wish everyone well and thank them for the support, professionalism and expertise that they have given me throughout my journey.



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