Writtle College

Logo-Writtle-CollegeWrittle College is a Good college as classified by Ofsted and they are fervently on the route to becoming Outstanding.

Established in 1893, Writtle College, a partner of the University of Essex, offers a range of land-based, design and sport courses at various levels of academic study including postgraduate, undergraduate, further education, short courses and apprenticeships.

About the Team

Lesley Graham is the recently appointed Vice Principal (Academic) at Writtle, which is a brand new role for the college, and she brings to it a wealth of experience from both Hertford Regional College and Barking & Dagenham. Together with Dr Jenny Thorpe, Director of FE, they form a very knowledgeable team. The GCSE maths and English Team consists of two specialists, with other delivery being taken up in a shared arrangement with Chelmsford College. This will not continue as Writtle move towards wholesale in-house delivery.

The Context

The recent Ofsted report highlighted several elements of good practice in vocational teams with their relevant embedding of maths and English. Results for Functional Skills have been very good; well above benchmark figures with only a small amount of GCSE entry. This has changed dramatically with the rule change demanding that every learner from August 2015 starting college with a D grade at GCSE has to resit. Writtle College do not have the staffing capacity to deliver these GCSEs without vocational teams taking up some input. The teaching arrangement with Chelmsford College cannot continue due to staffing shortages. The challenge is for Writtle Vocational Staff to assume responsibility for the GCSE delivery with more targeted input from the specialist team.

Success Factors

Staff Inset was dedicated to English and maths delivery. Vocational teams were fed the stark national figures relating to the state of the nation with regards to maths and English qualifications and ability by both the Vice Principal Academic and a College Governor.

Writtle photo 1

Governor Julia Smith and Director of FE Jenny Thorpe working through the SMART targets following whole staff CPD.

They were informed of the national shortage of maths and English teachers and the linked funding issues which challenge them all.  They were then challenged to decide upon three SMART targets to help support improvement in English and maths, across the board, specifically GCSE however.

Having heard difficult messages the staff then discussed at length the issues and resolved to come up with immediate actions for their teams and suggestions for the college as an institution. Ten staff came forward to volunteer to undergo further specialist training to enhance their delivery in one or both areas of need. This will be fully supported by the college and training has already been instigated less than one month from the staff event.

The college is also taking part in an EMCETT project looking at the drivers for Leadership and Governance in this priority area which will also feed into this agenda for improvement in a whole organisational approach.

Contributing factors

Sharing the national figure with staff was important. Helping them to understand the value of maths and English, not only for college but for future progression pathways, was important. Supporting staff willing to take this extra responsibility on, by providing specialist training through ACER, was valued. Ten staff have also volunteered to upskill to enable them to fully teach GCSE maths and English.

Impact

Every team across the FE sector has assumed responsibility and has suggested three SMART targets from better IAG to undertaking past papers and looking at the syllabus for maths and English as a team. This will be monitored by the Director of FE.

At the Governing Body Board meeting English and maths is an agenda item and Writtle photo 2Governors are well aware of the impact this needs to have. It is not acceptable at Writtle to suggest that GCSE resits are an extra and not an intrinsic part of your course. The message is one that “It is, and we will try our upmost to help you pass”. Governors take part in Learning Observations and Walks. There is an FE Governors Award for GCSE English and Maths successes in the Awards ceremony. Governors have also taken GCSE papers to try out them for themselves.

Targeted posters are being produced highlighting high profile people within the college for whom maths and English is importantn with a short quote from each person.

At the most recent CPD event for all staff a total of 27 people turned up for three hours of maths training from each vocational area and it was very highly evaluated.

Summary of success Factors

  • GCSE English and maths resits will have a high focus during any IAG event.
  • Parents need to share in this message about the importance of passing second time around.
  • Handing control back to vocational divisions at College will drive forward the necessary improvements.
  • Leadership, Management and Governors are all on board with this message. Governors are proactive in scrutinising English and maths provision through questioning staff and students alike.
  • Posters are produced with key messages about GCSE success in FE from Governors, employers, staff and students from the college, raising the profile and message.

Writtle College, Vice Principal (Academic)

Lesley Graham

 

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