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Tom Harbour

What are you leading?

I am the founder and CEO of Maths with Parents, an online tool that supports maths at home. We help parents and children to love learning maths together.

Primary maths teaching has improved dramatically, but many children go home and are told “I’ve always been rubbish at maths, so you will be too”. Maths homework is a miserable chore in too many households, supported by parents who were never taught the new methods that their child learns.

Maths with Parents work with primary schools to create a tailored package of support for the parents in each class. Every two weeks these parents are shown a video of the method that their child is currently learning. This is followed by two fun activities to play together. This support repeats throughout the academic year and teachers are provided with tools to monitor usage and to see feedback from the parents.

Maths with Parents won the Teach First Innovation Award 2017. We also partner with Mathematics Mastery in the UK, to co-create many of our resources, and work with UK maths charities nrich and National Numeracy.

The 50 schools that partner with Maths with Parents find that their parents are more confident and knowledgeable about the maths that their children learn, and that engagement increases significantly. Most importantly they report a change in their children’s attitude towards maths at home. Here are just a few of the thousands of comments from parents and children:

 “It was fun and enjoyable and the children were learning without realising it.” - Romana, Parent

 “It’s so fun to dance with daddy!” - Alexa, Year 3 Child

“My girl was so excited to win! Thank you for the exciting activity.” - Abdirahman, Parent

“I have only got great things to say about Maths with Parents” - Caroline, Headteacher

How did your experiences as a fellow inspire or prepare you for what you’re doing now?

It was through completing the Teach First Leadership Development Program that I first became aware of educational disadvantage. Half of children from the poorest backgrounds do not reach the expected standard in maths at the end of primary school. Half. These children go on to underachieve at GCSE, and are more likely to be unemployed as adults. In 2012 Teach First identified narrowing the gap in numeracy at primary school as a fair education goal, but as of 2017 the numeracy gap remains.

My experiences during Teach First showed me that within school all children receive similar support, regardless of socioeconomic background. This gap must therefore stem outside the school gates, when the children are at home in their communities. Indeed the Fair Education Alliance appear to agree…“to break this pattern of underachievement, the Fair Education Alliance has identified…that greater focus is required through primary school on the role of parents.” (FEA, 2016)

This realization led me to complete a Masters in Educational Leadership, through Teach First and the University of Warwick. Here I focussed on how schools can foster effective parental engagement with “hard to reach” parents, typically from low socio-economic demographics. Here I found that in low-income families parental engagement occurs less frequently, is less targeted and overall is less effective (Kalil, 2014; Lareau, 2003).

Through my Masters I started trialling different parental engagement projects in my school, the success of which lead me to found Maths with Parents. In March 2017 we won the Teach First Innovation Award, which helped us to improve the impact of our program, and to start to scale it up. We now work with over 5000 parents across the country, and it is incredibly rewarding to see typically “hard to reach” parents engaging in their child’s education in fun and positive ways.

What's next?

My aims for Maths with Parents are unapologetically ambitious. Maths with Parents will change the way that maths is viewed in homes across the UK. Many parents enjoy reading with their child, so why is there no fun maths equivalent? We know from feedback that our games are genuinely fun, non-threatening, take up very little time and require almost no resources.

We have built a massively scalable website and support program. It is no exaggeration to say that all 17,000 primary schools (and their 8 million parents) in the UK could sign up and start using www.mathswithparents.com tomorrow and the system would cope perfectly well. This incredible scalability places Maths with Parents in a unique position. We are on the edge of being a game-changing social enterprise, providing powerful maths support for parents and their children across the country.

There is significant demand for Maths with Parents, as the problem affects all primary schools across the country. We believe that by partnering with these schools we can build a sustainable social enterprise that supports all children to enjoy and succeed in maths. By working with schools to focus particularly on parents from the poorest background we will be able to support their good work and narrow the gap in primary maths.

Longer term we would like to widen our social impact by expanding our program into early years and secondary schools. Working with parents of very young children can hopefully lessen the gap that children have when they first reach school.

Alumni info

Partner

Alumni Cohort

2011

Current Home

Bristol, UK

Subject(s) Taught

Science

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Leadership Journey

2011

Graduated from University of Cambridge

2013

Completed Teach First Leadership Development Program

2014

Completed Masters in Educational Leadership

2015

Launched Maths with Parents

2016

First pilot of MwP with 5 primary schools

2017

Won Teach First Innovation Award

Support

2013

Teach First training program

2014

Teach First organized and co-funded MEd

2017

Teach First Innovation Unit