Our activities in schools were suspended under lockdown in spring 2020, and the uncertainty around the pandemic prevented us making agreements for 2020-21. Since the start of September, we have agreed partnerships with several schools, and we look forward to our volunteers being back in schools immediately after the October half term. We are still very much looking to recruit additional schools for 2020-21.

We will deliver our intervention on a ‘best efforts’ basis depending on what restrictions are in force during the year. Our fee structure means that schools will not pay for volunteer sessions they do not receive.

Our trained volunteers support children in state primary schools who are behind with maths.  Our focus is children in Years 2 and 3.

An In-school Volunteer will run one-to-one sessions with each child for 20 to 30 minutes, at least weekly for a full school year.  Sessions take place in school but outside the classroom, during the normal school day.

We train our volunteers in the early years maths syllabus and in creative ways to engage young children with maths games and exercises. We have current and former teachers acting as mentors who deliver this training and give on-going support to our volunteers, including observing them in a session with a child.

Our training also covers safeguarding, and we require schools to give volunteers an induction on their safeguarding policy and to run a DBS check.

Number Champions was founded in 2018 and will complete a two-year pilot scheme in July 2020. Our pilot was free to schools, but from 2020-21 we are charging a small fee per child each year to defray about 30% of our costs, with the rest being raised from sponsors.

If you are interested in becoming a Number Champions school, please have a look at our FAQs below, and then contact us, and we can discuss or send you more information as appropriate.


Headteachers raising hands to ask questions about becoming a Number Sense primary school

Which children do you support?

We work with children in school Years 2 and 3 since our initial research – and continuing feedback from our partner schools – indicates that there is already a strong need for help in maths at this age. Educationalists also recommend early intervention as being most effective. By specialising in one age group, we can train our volunteers to deliver better support.

We ask teachers to select children who are behind in maths and who they think can benefit from dedicated help.

Our volunteers support children with a wide range of abilities, but they cannot replace the work of a Special Educational Needs professional; we therefore ask schools not to select children needing such professional help.

What time are the sessions?

Exact times depend on the school and on the volunteer, but will be during the school day. Different volunteers may come to the school on different days or times. Schools generally want volunteers to commit to the same time each week.”

Most volunteers will have a limited number of times they could commit to during the week. If schools are able to be flexible on timing, this may make it easier to supply volunteers.

Where do sessions take place?

All sessions are in school, although the actual location will depend on the particular school.  This might be in the library, the dining room, or perhaps in a corridor area.

The volunteer fetches the child from the classroom at the start of each session and accompanies them back to the classroom afterwards.

Who provides learning materials?

We equip our in-school volunteers with a set of ‘props’ including whiteboard, dice, counters, cards, and snakes and ladders Their training and support includes recommendations of internet sites where they can download various printed sheets with number lines and number squares and other resources.

We ask that schools assist where possible by lending our volunteers available teaching materials such as ‘Dienes Rods’ and ‘Numicon’ and toy money.

How many Number Champions volunteers will there be at the school?

We agree this with each school, depending on its individual circumstances. A single-form-entry school might want only two volunteers, but for any larger school we would usually aim to start with at least three volunteers. We will introduce the volunteers to each other so that they can share experiences and ideas and cooperate in their approach to the school.

How do your sessions work?

Sessions are usually 25 to 30 minutes, with the school deciding on the exact length.

The volunteer will tailor the sessions to help the child catch up on missing skills, but the sessions will be much more flexible than structured classroom lessons. Sessions typically involve discussions and mathematical games as well as more conventional ‘classroom’ exercises. Often the volunteer will work with concrete objects with the child, to reinforce basic skills.

On the request of the teacher, the in-school volunteer may sometimes work through specific examples or activities relating to current classroom teaching.

What is a typical game?

There isn’t a typical game!

An example of using a game in place of ‘just doing sums’ would be as follows. The volunteer takes 18 playing cards made up of two suits of one to nine – and then places them face down. The first player turns over a pair of cards. The aim is to find pairs adding to ten. If a pair does add to ten, the player keeps the pair and has another go. If the pair does not add to ten, the player replaces the cards face down – and both players try to remember the cards. Then the second player has a go.  The winner is the player with the most pairs at the end.

The game gives the child the opportunity to reinforce ‘number bonds’ for ten, but equally importantly it gives a framework for talking through strategies for counting and adding and subtracting – and for having fun.

How do you and the school interact?

We aim to establish good relationships in every school, at a personal level with teachers and staff and also through structured communication with the school management.

We ask that the school provides a single teaching contact, typically the Head of Maths or a member of the Senior Leadership Team.  This allows our volunteers to liaise about issues without having to interrupt classroom teachers during the teaching day.  We also request a single contact for administration.

Number Champions will also provide a single contact for administration and will assign one of our Mentors to be available to our volunteers and to the school teaching contact.

Our standard agreement lays out clearly the commitments of Number Champions and of the school. In particular, it establishes requirements for safeguarding and data protection. It also defines how our fee is calculated and the mechanism for reducing this if a volunteer is unable to provide the full number of sessions.

How do you know that your intervention has a positive impact?

We have developed our intervention based on discussions with experienced teachers and educationalists, incorporating ideas from existing literacy schemes which support children learning to read.  We have also built on feedback from our volunteers.

At the end of our first year, in July 2019, we asked the class teacher of each child we worked with to evaluate the child’s progress over the year compared to the rest of the class. This used a five point scale from ‘very much better’ to ‘worse’. (It turned out that nobody was evaluated ‘worse’!) The teachers rated 60% of the children ‘very much better’ or ‘noticeably better’.

These results are particularly striking, as the selection criterion for the children is that they have performed less well than their classmates over the previous years.

For school year 2019-20 we have asked the same question to class teachers on over 100 children. As the pandemic has meant that our intervention has been for a half year only, we anticipate positive but less emphatic results.

Thus we have an intervention which professionals predict will succeed and which is already showing positive impact. However, we want to continue to improve the quality of our intervention and to get external validation of our results.

We have made initial steps towards establishing a partnership with independent academics who can evaluate whether we achieve improved outcomes for the children we work with. A statistically meaningful analysis will require tracking hundreds of children. Our goal is to achieve this by 2024-25.

What written agreement is there?

We have developed our standard agreement with pro-bono lawyers. It lays out what Number Sense and its volunteers will do and what we expect from the school. It covers specific requirements in the areas of safeguarding, data protection, and insurance. It also defines our fee structure in detail, including a rebate to be paid to the school if our volunteers do not deliver a minimum number of sessions with children.

What fee do you charge?

We charge £60 per child for a full year. However, if the school finds a volunteer, we charge only £30 per a child. Thus if a school has 3 volunteers working with a total of 9 children, its annual fee will be between £270 and £540. As above, if a volunteer does less than a minimum number of sessions we will rebate part of the fee.

Our fee is budgeted to cover about 30% of our costs, with the rest coming from sponsors and donations.

Why are you currently working only in North London?

An organisation with a strong physical presence requires people on the ground in each area where it operates. This means not just in-school volunteers, but also people to recruit schools and manage the relationships, and people to recruit and to support volunteers.

We therefore began with a pilot scheme in North London, this year partnering with 13 schools in six boroughs. In 2020-21 we intend to expand to 24 schools in seven boroughs, and our strategy is to continue to grow steadily both in number of schools and in geographical reach, building a local support structure in each new area.