Colchester Institute

Innovation in GCSE English

About the college

CI logoThe college currently offers 16-19 Study Programmes to in the region of 2,800 learners across a range of vocational and academic disciplines. In the current academic year, approximately 1,500 young people need to up-skill in terms of English and/or maths to meet the requirements of the Study Programme. Of this 1,500, over 500 are studying GCSE English and 350 GCSE Maths.

The context

The college is in the process of developing a team of staff to teach GCSE. The central teams comprise of maths and English specialists who have previously taught Functional Skills or ESOL and new staff recruited externally, some of whom have experience of teaching within schools and also include maths teacher trainees recruited under the Maths Graduate Scheme. In taking a pragmatic approach when recruiting, the college has been fortunate to attract some highly qualified specialists who wish to have a more flexible working pattern than a full time position.

Moving forward, further external recruitment is underway for 2015-16 and training for internal staff (both functional skills and vocational tutors) who wish to ‘up skill’ to teach GCSE has begun. The English Course Leaders (GCSE and Functional Skills) have been trained to deliver the English Enhancement Programme and this is now offered to staff internally. Teachers, within the college or working for fellow providers, who are interested in improving their own maths skills can study a Level 3 Award in mathematics for numeracy teaching in the college. The initial cohorts are fully funded through the Education and Training Foundation.

Due to the amount of students on the English GCSE programme this year and the number of GCSE English teachers across campuses, The Head of Maths and English and the GCSE English Course Lead felt that it would be helpful to have a centralised moodle which every student could look at. This is markedly different from how the college moodle system usually operates, where each class has its own moodle.

The approach

The GCSE English moodle is structured to show the component parts of the GCSE English qualification. By structuring the moodle in this way, the team hope that it gives the qualification ‘shape’ for both teachers and students. Resources devised by all 10 of the GCSE English teaching team are shared through the moodle (using staff initials to show their source). Tutors from the students’ main programmes of study are also encouraged to join the moodle and see what the GCSE English qualification involves and its underpinning skills.

The team are able to track and see who is accessing the site and when. They know, for instance, that there is a spike in use before any given controlled assessment. They freely admit that, in these early stages, not all students use the site to its full potential. The tracking facility is allowing them to tackle the culture change which they realise is necessary amongst student groups in order for moodle use to reach its full potential.

Impact and success factors

This is obviously the first cohort with whom this approach has been used. The team have, however, already identified the following as indicators of its potential:

  • It has brought the team together and kept the qualification ‘on track’, despite the large cohort.
  • It has served as a point of inspiration for both students and staff.
  • When staff are absent, it has a practical use as it makes setting work for students easier.
  • Vocational tutors are more aware of what the English GCSE qualification is trying to achieve.
  • Some vocational tutors have enrolled to the group and used materials from the site to support students during their study time.

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