How Can Schools And Universities Work Together?

Have you thought about working with university maths departments now that you are a maths teacher?  What do universities offer to schools and what are the benefits to your pupils?

One day your pupils will leave you

As a maths teacher you are preparing your pupils for the next step in their journey, which will mean helping some of them choose a university degree course.  Is your maths department promoting maths at university, and do you know how to give advice about making an application?  Even if you have a great careers department – your school maths department should still be the biggest advocate of studying maths at the next level. If you work with a university, your knowledge will be much more up to date and you will be regularly reminded of where your pupils could be heading to next.

See it for real

Your pupils will be encouraged to visit universities during open days and this is understandably important, however many maths departments can offer a much more in-depth experience in the form of school visits, residential summer schools or regular enrichment classes. Interacting with students and lecturers in this way can be inspirational for pupils and can also help them make better decisions about what to study and where.

Stoke the passion

Meeting undergraduates and lecturers who are passionate about mathematics can be infectious. This experience will benefit all your pupils – including the majority who might not actually choose maths as their degree.  It could also help some pupils to change their minds and realise that maths is for them.  Remember – working with universities can benefit all your pupils, including younger cohorts and lower ability pupils (if the activities are suitable). This is an important point to stress when you are persuading your senior leaders to let you out of school.

So, what is on offer?

This can really vary between university maths departments, and in some universities, outreach is organised more centrally.

You might be based close to only one or two universities – in which case check out their websites – if you are unsure what to look for then search for the term ‘mathematics outreach’.

If you are in London or in a place between two big cities, then you will have quite a few universities to choose from and may end up interacting with multiple institutions – lucky you!

If you live in a more remote area you may need to travel further afield – but this could be so beneficial, particularly if your pupils don’t have the opportunity to visit many places.  Not all universities have maths departments, but the majority do – if your local university doesn’t have a maths department then widen your search.

The IMA MathsCareers website has a list of universities currently offering Maths degrees, this is a good place to start your search for your local university.

Types of activities

This can vary hugely and could also change from year to year – make sure you get on the right mailing lists so that you can be kept up to date.  Here are some possible options:

  • Talks or workshops on engaging maths topics which aren’t normally covered in the curriculum – these could be delivered in your school or you could visit the university.
  • Taster days which could combine maths workshops with other activities such as talking to current students.
  • Competitions – often these are team competitions which are held inside the university.
  • Masterclasses – a series of maths workshops which are usually aimed at high ability pupils.These can be for younger year groups and there are even masterclasses designed for primary school pupils.
  • Science fairs – sometimes these are open to the public as part of a science festival and often they feature hands on activities.
  • Events run by the AMSP – many members of the AMSP team are based inside universities, and they organise events such as Problem-Solving courses aimed at Year 12 pupils.
  • Public lectures by well-known maths speakers – often delivered in the evening or at weekends.
  • Teacher conferences – lectures and workshops aimed just at teachers, but usually based inside a university.
  • One off festivals or celebrations of mathematics.

During Maths Week England 2019, Bishop Grosseteste University (BGU) invited 180 children from a local primary school in Lincoln to work on hands-on maths games and puzzles.  You can read more about this in the Maths Week England 2019 blog.

Outreach events available nationally

Many universities offer activities which are aimed at schools from all over the country – reflecting the fact that most pupils won’t just choose their local university. 

  • On-line competitions, for example the University of Manchester Maths Bombe Competition which is aimed at Sixth Formers.
  • Residential summer schools such as those at the University of Bath.
  • On-line resources such as the NRICH problem solving website which has been developed by the University of Cambridge.

Defending your case

In many schools it won’t be easy to find time to go on trips or even to invite visiting speakers into your school – budgets are tight and classroom time is filled with teaching and important revision for exams. As a maths teacher you will really have to believe that extra-curricular experiences are important and worthwhile for your pupils.  You might not be able to directly measure the success in terms of exam performance, so you need to really value the worth of working with universities for your pupils. Be passionate and hopefully your Senior Leaders will be able to see the value of what you want to do.



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