single FunKey Musings
Categories: Children Peer Mentoring
May 28th by Maggie Steel

The FunKey Maths Peer Mentoring Programme is an intervention which pairs trained Year 5 children with Year 2s who are below age related expectations in maths. The Year 5s work with the Year 2s through a structured programme of maths activities, which develops both self-confidence and number skills. It is the culmination of years of piloting, reflecting, improving. We know it works. You can read the external evaluation report here. It concludes that

“FunKey provides a very low-cost and highly effective peer-teaching intervention for KS1 children who are not meeting age-related expectations in mathematics.”

Central to the training for the Mentors is the concept of the Three Es.

In the training we think about the attributes of brilliant teachers. We write them up on the board. (Interestingly two of the most popular suggestions from children are kind and funny. No pressure everyone!)

After we’ve talked for a while about what makes a great teacher I write up three large Es on the board and tell them that the three top things I’m looking for in mentors all begin with E. They work out that mentors need to be:

  • Energetic
  • Enthusiastic
  • Encouraging

These days I don’t train the Mentors directly, I work with groups of teachers to show them how to train their own Mentors. When we are doing the section on the Three Es invariably one of the teachers sighs and says something along the lines of,

“We could all do with remembering the Three Es …”

It’s true. Teachers and teaching assistants alike need to remember the Three Es. Our energy is contagious, positive or negative. With a bit of enthusiasm and encouragement we can carry the reluctant or fearful along with us. In combination, the Three Es are game changers.

At the Mentor Training we also talk about communication. We recognise that meaning is derived from the combination of four factors. Words have to chime with tone of voice, facial expression and body language. To get all four right, you need focused energy.

We also experiment with different ways to say the words “Well done.” We watch what happens to our face and body when we mean the words we are saying. We can hear the difference in tone and pitch if we don’t mean it. The difference is defined by our levels of enthusiasm and energy.

With massive cuts to school budgets, teachers and teaching assistants are operating in difficult circumstances. Their energy and enthusiasm are likely to be depleted. But the moment we lose the Three Es in front of children, we are wasting learning opportunities. Children’s learning thrives when we thrive. Our energy will energise them, and in turn we will be energised by them. It creates a virtuous circle. Once negative energy sets in, we create a vicious circle.

So in staff rooms, practise the Three Es. Encourage each other. Energise each other. Stay connected to your enthusiasm for teaching. Watching children learn is still wonderful.

For information about the FunKey Maths Peer Mentoring Programme please contact

Maggie Steel
More of FunKey Musings

Peer Mentoring: a catalyst for personal growth The FunKey Maths Peer Mentoring programme trains Year 5 students (age 9-10) to work with children in Year 2 (age 6-7) who have started to struggle in maths. The highly structured programme helps the younger children build their confidence and develop their maths skills. The programme started in … Continued

May 30th by Maggie Steel

When I was the mother of two small girls I heard a grannie on the radio. She had a compelling tone – wise and warm mother-earth – so I listened intently. I remember her stark warning: “Never rush a child.” She talked about the importance of going at the pace of the child. I cringed … Continued

May 13th by Maggie Steel