White Rose: How can we use it more effectively?

Posted in Inspiration & Ideas


Using White Rose More Effectively: What’s on offer and what’s missing?

Like you I’m sure, my term has started with a bang. Already, over the past two weeks, I’ve been fortunate enough to work with seven schools (both state and private) across the UK and Middle East and now find myself reflecting upon the things teachers have shared, what staff have particularly responded to and the common issues and challenges raised.



Every one of those seven school is using White Rose in some capacity. Knowing this before I delivered the training led me to look at what White Rose, and similar schemes, offer and, more importantly, what appears to be missing.

Here is an overview of the training I’ve delivered to the schools using White Rose:

  • Establishing a whole school vision for maths where teacher and TA subject knowledge is consistent, accurate and constantly improving
  • Defining ‘greater depth’: Planning for it and challenging perceptions about who can achieve it
  • Teaching essential number sense from EYFS to Year 6: Making sure children know how and when to use their facts and not just learn the facts themselves
  • Teaching problem-solving through meaningful (often real-life) contexts to engage learners and show them the ‘point of maths’ in their lives
  • Teaching maths outside: The huge potential offered by the outdoor environment in not only teaching and learning maths but meeting children’s physical and emotional needs as learners (and ours!)
  • How do we (as teachers and TAs) understand and learn to use the ‘Concrete- Pictorial-Abstract’ used throughout White Rose before we teach it to the children? Learning to use Cuisenaire rods, bar modelling, tens frames, subitising, place value resources and more so we’re confident and consistent across school?


So, there’s a great deal to consider but let’s start here:


How Effective is Our Planning?

I was a teacher for almost twenty years and have been through (it feels) just about every approach to planning on offer. I do remember the joy of finding last year’s plans and thinking ‘Great, this will save me time! I can re-use these plans this year.’ ( I also planned in considerable detail too so this was looking good…)

Or not.

I couldn’t make sense of what I meant in my planning. The thought process I was involved in; my knowledge of the stage in the journey we’d reached in what I was aiming to teach and, most importantly, my understanding of how my children were learning (or not) just wasn’t there. Yes there were a series of tasks and even an activity or two but not what I really needed; ownership of the process.

If I wasn’t able to use my old planning (and I’m certainly not alone there), why on a earth would someone else’s planning help me achieve this???

So there it is, our first ‘Elephant in the room’ moment; White Rose (Power Maths, Maths No Problem, Classroom Secrets etc.) is someone else’s planning. Another human being wrote them and that wasn’t us. Therefore, they can be a resource within our planning, yes, but they can never be ‘our planning’.

Unfortunately, this approach is dominating too many of the schools I support in their quest for consistency. I understand the quest, but this approach won’t get you there. In fact in the worst case scenarios, many teachers have stopped planning totally and rely solely on the schemes; meaning the essential ownership, subject knowledge development and forming a ‘map’ of the journey, is never created. ‘Consistency’ here means that every teacher is using the same scheme and not what we’re actually aiming for; that every teacher is teaching maths effectively.

Planning, therefore, is where I needed to begin.


Medium-Term Planning


White Rose offers a table with an overview of the year showing what is to be taught and when. It’s labelled ‘Medium-Term Planning’ but it’s not medium-term planning. It’s long-term planning. Deciding when you’re going to teach something and ensuring you make as many connections between areas of focus and revisit concepts regularly is essential for breadth and coverage but also for long-term memory. So long-term planning is very important.

Medium-term planning though is quite different. A medium-term plan is where you ‘map out’ your journey and make sure you are fully prepared to manage the day-to day teaching: short-term planning.

So, let’s consider it another way… 


Planning a Holiday

You and a group of friends decide to go on a walking holiday to the Alps. (It seemed like a good idea at the time!)

You decide when to go and specifically where in the Alps.

This is you ‘long-term planning’. Without it you wouldn’t know when the holiday was or where you were going.

You then realise that you need to consider a wide range of aspects before you’ll be ready to undertake the trip. This will include getting physically fit, sourcing the equipment you’ll need and how to use it, understanding the terrain, opportunities for sight-seeing along the way, how you’ll feed yourself, where you’ll sleep, how you’ll get there and more.

This is your ‘medium-term planning’. Without it you’d be a preparing to fail if you embarked upon such a trip as you’d be completely ill-equipped. Having a guide book at this stage telling you how to be a hiker in the Alps I imagine would be of very limited help.

You arrive at the start of the hike fit, appropriately equipped and safe in the knowledge that food, accommodation etc. is arranged. You can then focus upon the trip and respond to unpredictable changes in weather, unforeseen opportunities along the way and be ready for any unfortunate incidences.

This is your ‘short-term’ planning’ Because you are fully prepared, you can now focus upon the day-to day decisions and be confident in your ability to meet challenges and maximise these opportunities.

Summary of Planning Types:

Long-term= What and when

Medium-term= What skills, resources and knowledge do I need to develop before I embark upon this journey?

Short-term= Let’s go! Be prepared to respond to challenges and opportunities along the way

When we look at it this way, I’m not sure we’ve ever had medium-term planning in maths.

Without medium-term planning, the result is we’re not prepared for the journey so too many of us reach for a handbook and do our best often grabbing at resources when they appear to try and ‘get through it’.

Therefore my first suggestion for the new term is create a medium-term ‘map’ for the area of maths you’re currently teaching. The great news is not only will you feel knowledgeable, organised and skilled but you will be able to use it again next year! Honestly. 


Creating A Medium-Term Planning Map

I’ve spent A LOT of time developing this approach to the point where it’s now very simple and very effective.

I’ve now introduced lots of schools I support to this model and transformed even teachers who say things like ‘You do the maths planning and I’ll do the English’ (someone will one day have to explain to me how this works. I thought the planning was the deep thinking in preparation for teaching?!) into someone who said ‘Oh, I cannot believe how much we’re missing out! I want to do this now and can see how we can do it.’ Music to my ears.

First we’ll look at each heading in turn and so you can see what we’re aiming for and consider what’s included that most of us aren’t yet considering on our journey. Then I’ll share ‘Here’one I made earlier’ and I’ll make suggestions regarding how to make it your own (using my ideas as starting points if you wish).


Our Map – Medium-term planning headings:

Teacher and TA subject knowledge: What are the key concepts involved in teaching this area of mathematics? What source/s of subject knowledge am I using (Title of book and page number, hyper-link etc.)

Hooks: How can I ‘bring the maths to life’ and get everyone ‘on the learning bus’ as we begin? What kinds of activities, questions, tasks will encourage children to be curious, question, wonder and reveal existing knowledge and understanding?

Expert Language: What are the special words and terms we’ll be using during this journey and, more importantly, what do they mean? Is my TA defining these words in the same way as I am and is everyone in school using them correctly?

Connections: All mathematics is connected to other mathematics. Connections mean there’s less to learn and learning is more effective as we build on existing knowledge and skills. We need to make connections explicit and give children time to make sense of how concepts are related.

Misconceptions: Misconceptions are very precious opportunities in teaching. You do, however, need strong subject knowledge to spot them and also avoid teaching them in the first place! e.g. ‘You can’t take a larger number from a smaller number’ or ‘This is a flat shape so it’s 2D’. Arghhh!

Misconceptions must be gathered and treated with respect. Children need opportunities to test their ideas and begin to realise that they have a misconception. This is being a scientist in maths; testing out and proving or disproving our conjectures. (And a key statement in the aims of the  National Curriculum – page 3 of NC).

Skill-Sharpening Resources: This is where we turn to White Rose, Power Maths, Classroom Secrets, Nrich, your own ideas and anything else you consider to be a good source of ideas, activities, games and tasks to help develop true fluency in this area of maths. List the books, the page numbers, hyper-link to an activity on line, photograph the MET office web page or the nutrition label on the side of a food packet. Once you’ve found an activity use it as it is or improve/adapt it. By listing it you won’t have to go searching again next year; you can just add to it!

The ‘Concrete- Pictorial- Abstract’ Journey’: Here we need to consider which types of equipment will best reveal the mathematics and act as a vehicle for conjecture and developing understanding. How will concrete resources translate into pictorial images and finally how is this understanding captured using abstract symbols? Here your subject knowledge is crucial and your own experience of handling these resources and learning the mathematics yourself before you try and teach the children. When you experience making sense of proportional reasoning or equality using Cuisenaire rods and then record your understanding using bar modelling finally capturing your findings using symbols (which could be algebraic or numerical) you gain an invaluable insight into the journey your children will need to go on leading you to ask questions like:

  • Have we got enough equipment?
  • Who will work with who to ensure every child is thinking and contributes?
  • What will my TA and I be doing so we’re facilitating learning not interfering and stopping learning (good intentions can often translate into far too much support)?
  • What will I listen to and capture?
  • What do I want the children to realise whilst they’re doing this? Is it like other learning they’ve experienced before and need to build upon?

Particularly in the ‘Concrete’ section, I’d recommend the use of photos and video links. Imagine picking up this medium- term planning map as a new teacher or one who’s just moved year groups. How much more effective would a video link of children using concrete resources to solve multiplication problems be than a written explanation? Be smart with images whereever possible; they’re much more engaging for us as adults too. ‘A picture speaks a thousand words’ as the saying goes.

An example of a completed medium-term planning map for ‘Multiplication and Division’ 

If you would like to receive further completed examples and a blank version to use for your own planning just sign up for updates on my website at www.karenwildingeducation.co.uk  I’ll be sending out examples to all subscribers very shortly.

So, if you’re currently using White Rose (or something similar) where is the support and advice for creating medium-term planning so you’re prepared and skilled up? Have you had a chance to learn to use tens frames (brilliant resource but commonly used wrongly) and bar modelling before they pop up in the tasks? Where is Cuisenaire mentioned as a very valuable concrete stepbefore bar modelling? Where is the focus upon accurate and consistent whole -school language use?

Where are the engaging real-life ‘hooks’ and cross-curricular links? Where is the maths taught outside or through stories?

White Rose (and others) are resources. They’re not our planning. They are someone else’s planning. Used appropriately they can enhance your teaching and support consistency. As you can see here though, it’s far from being the whole picture and we must use this new school term to slow down and re-consider what we trying to achieve and how.


Next blog!

Somewhere it is written in stone ‘Though shall teach place value in September’.

Do we have to? And if we do decide to, are we teaching place value in a meaningful, engaging, connected way?

Why starting with an area of maths that engages ALL children and gets you excited means a more successful autumn term for us all.

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  • ‘One of our EYFS Teachers has just attended this training and came back totally inspired and singing your praises. She said that she learnt more on this course than any course she has ever attended!’


    C Magnocavallo Head of Maths, Chesham Preparatory School, Bucks

  • Thank you for showing us HOW to change. So many courses just tell us what isn't working but not how to go about addressing this. Your approaches make so much sense! 

  • Just to say thank you again for 3 really brilliant talks at SGIS. We're a small school near Basel and we’d be interested in anything you’re doing nearby (Zurich way) so please let us know!