Established originally as a sixth form college, Seevic College became a general further education college in 2010 and approximately 3,000 students attend courses at the main site in Benfleet, Essex. The college offers a wide range of academic and vocational programmes for 16-18 year olds as well as adult learners. Students attend the college from a diverse and wide ranging catchment area, including a number of districts with high deprivation. However, unemployment is generally below average. Achievement rates at 16 were just above the national average.
About the Team
Laurie Burton heads up the maths team at Seevic. He is a whirlwind of a man, personable and with a great student rapport. He is the type of person who picks up the rubbish along the corridor and pops into a classroom to remind a student to take his feet off the desk. He walks at 100 miles an hour and his brain thinks almost as fast. Laurie has an awareness of secondary maths issues as he attends the local King John’s Secondary Heads’ meeting. He recognises what students do and don’t want from college resit maths. They need a bespoke package and they don’t want to mix with students from other courses in large classes, often in the evening. Laurie has also identified a small cohort of students who need a higher grade maths than a C grade for university entry or Higher Level Apprenticeships and has provided a streamlined higher GCSE pathway with extra support and extra top up work if necessary to suit those individual students, for example, who need a B grade for their progression.
Laurie: “These are not the sort of students who are happy to sit in front of a computer and log on to a maths programme for two hours a day. They need a more bespoke package and regular contact with staff”
In 2012 results in maths GCSE resit were low:
2012-13: 35% C Grades (pre-training)
2013-14: 68% C Grades (after training)
According to AQA the average for similar colleges is 43%
Staff training was implemented by ACER in 2012 at Laurie’s request and consisted of three 2 hour sessions for staff focusing upon Creative Approaches to GCSE maths. Led by an ACER Maths Champion they modelled good teaching approaches as well as highlighting a number of well known resources used in the secondary sector which are less familiar in further education. Motivation was a key focal point for student success within this, where students have previously failed.
By the end of the sessions staff at Seevic were rejuvenated and armed with a plethora of new ideas and tools to use immediately with students.
Staff training in 2012 initiated the renewed impetus in increasing success rates for GCSE resit in maths leading to a cross college priority for maths improvement. The recent Oftsed report in September 2014 acknowledges the success in GCSE mathematics and recognises there is work to be done at foundation level with functional maths.
A number of other factors then contributed to the present success for GCSE.
Team meetings were separated out for GCSE and A level and focused entirely upon teaching and learning for one hour per week. More effort has been put into lesson planning and also planning for homework.
From September to February the learning emphasis is upon skill building. From February to June the emphasis is upon exam practice and preparation with one GCSE past paper being completed every week as homework.
A Learning Coach gives verbal feedback to each student from the past paper having been marked and a Student Record Card is the mechanism for target setting from the verbal feedback. This is extremely valuable and personalises the learning for each student.
Regular practice means that the lessons are influenced by the past paper homework. Lessons are fluid and can be altered during planning time dependent upon the homework results. There are no issues with homework not completed. High expectations are set at the beginning of the year and have parental support.
Students remain in their vocational grouping for their maths. For example, all sport students remain together and the work is personalised and embedded to make it relevant and real for students. They work upon areas such as percentages within the nutritional value of sports drinks.
Seevic benefits from having a relatively small intake of students. There are roughly 160 students who are borderline C grade students. These students are also likely to be taking an A level alongside a GCSE resit. Staffing is not an issue for GCSE and the team are fully staffed with qualified teachers. This is different within Functional maths where the team are not specialists and the teaching is also done by vocational staff members.
Having improved the pass rate success for GCSE the impetus is now upon striving to increase this performance, whilst being conscious of the change in the GCSE maths curriculum and the implications for teaching.
Whilst GCSE maths success has seen huge improvements, the foundation maths needs more work to improve and these are the next steps for Seevic starting with some re-energising maths training from ACER.
Summary of Success Factors
- Creative approaches to GCSE CPD sessions for staff via ACER
- Vocational groups remain together for GCSE classes
- Regular weekly one hour team meetings focusing on GCSE maths teaching and learning
- Lesson planning and regular past paper homework
- Target setting by a Learning Coach, from the homework
- Regular review of the Student Record Card targets
- Front load the skill building and knowledge gap filling for the first half year
Seevic College, Benfleet, Essex
Head of Maths: Laurie Burton